Every year I think that this is going to be the summer that we do all the fun things. I think that I am going to make the most of each day and really make sure that the boys have the kind of summers I remember from when I was a kid.
I always want to use the summer to make a leap forward in skills and to make sure the kids can learn some new things all while having lots of time to relax.
The flaw in this plan, of course, is that the kids have an entirely different idea of what makes for fun relaxation than I do. And the tension between their idea of fun and mine can be really draining.
And I find that I never plan the summer quite early enough (June disappears on me each year) and if I don’t make a plan then I drift through my days untethered and so do the kids.
Then I find myself at the end of the summer, torn between the desire to just let them do whatever the hell they want for those last few days before school and the desire to drag them to every last ‘fun’ thing I can think of.
The end of summer carries with it a twinge of regret then, for the summer mom I meant to be, and the summer family I hoped we’d become.
Here’s the catch though. We had lots of fun this summer. A great vacation to Gros Morne and to see the Viking settlement in L’Anse Aux Meadows. We spend a few days in Terra Nova at our beloved Sandy Pond. We hung out in the backyard, we had BBQs with friends, the kids played games and had water fights, and they found lots of time to play video games without driving me completely crazy.
So, I guess this is one of those situations that comes up in mindfulness/zen literature all the time. The problem is less about what is than about me not accepting what is.
I need to let go of my vision, and see the fun we had, and the fact that despite a long summer together, my kids still get along well 95% of the time.
The fact is, there were lots of times, maybe even every day that I looked at my family and thought ‘Yes, THIS is what it is all about.’ What could make for a better summer (or any time) than that?
So, part of my practice for the next 119 days is to remember that I cannot change what is already happening, but I can decide how to feel about it and how to react to it.
For those of you who know me in real life, I haven’t lost my mind. I’m not pretending I can become one of those people who just accept what comes at them and go with the flow. I need structure and I need plans (that’s what I am trying to teach myself how to do in the next four months), and when I plan for my future self, it makes my days go much more smoothly.
BUT even as I plan for times to come, and figure out how to make things go a little more in the direction I am hoping, I am still going to try to just accept what actually happens I am going to try not to create misery for myself by creating dissonance between what is and what I feel ‘should be.’ That’s a surefire way to be unhappy.
I am committing to finding the ways that my family can be at its best, but I am not willing to sacrifice fun along the way.
So, begone, summer regrets – you don’t serve me well. Instead, I’m going to turn that wistful feeling to the good and realize that while summer is the most ‘free’ time of year, there is still plenty of fun to be had in fall and in winter, and my search for structure will help create more space for that.