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The End of Summer and Doing Nothing

Happy Birthday Peter


My neighbor made me feel better today.


He stood in our driveway and commented that my kids were making great memories this summer. He noticed how often we’ve been leaving overnight. Our camping gear in and out of the garage. Our blinds pulled for days at a time.


I pictured the scene happening that very moment inside the house. Not one of epic summer making. Popcorn and chip bags spread out across the kitchen counter. Dirty dishes piled so high they were at risk of tumbling down and flattening a small child in the process. Play-dough balls hardening on the dining room table after days in and out of their containers. And most notably, children lying on the floor. Doing nothing. Well, arguing some.


And I felt better as I was reminded by a family outsider, that not every day this summer had gone down like this one.


Yesterday I looked around this same scene and insisted we “get out of the house and do something!” You’d think I’d suggested we carry backpacks full of rocks up the face of Mt. Rushmore by the resistance I’d met. So I temporarily moved on, attending to my to-do list and did dishes and made beds and noted how quiet the house was.


There was a play-dough creative storm happening and three of my four were hard at work TOGETHER at the dining room table. How could I end that kind of magic? It was like a miracle right in my home and I was letting it pass by. So I stopped and noticed.


I was trying to make every last minute of summer magical, epic even. And they were fine with the nothingness of the day. The nothingness in my mind at least.


There in the driveway my neighbor reminded me we were making some memories in the epic category. He also reminded me that some of the best childhood memories are those that happen in the ordinary summer moments. He talked about going to the neighborhood pool as a boy with his cousin. The pool that is now gone.

“Those were the days,” he said.

“We still talk about going to that pool.”

Because summer’s version of ordinary is pretty magical all on its own.

The jumping off the diving board contests and all over the yard water fights and staying up watching Forrest Gump with your parents as they realize they forgot a few more “adult” elements to the movie than when they first suggested it. Those are the stories they will tell in twenty years, as much as the road trips and hotel vacations.


I realized yesterday, as I decided to not interrupt the play-dough engineering team, that everyone was happy. I was heaping this expectation of epic into every minute of summer because summer is almost over! Or I should say summer break is almost over? (Because I can’t say summer is over until after Labor Day, I just can’t get that out of my system.) And I’m not ready!


In some ways, I am very ready to have everyone peeled off of the living room floor and out the door. But summer is supposed to be our down time, our together time, away from the crazy of school and soccer and life that goes on the other 9 months. And I can feel these last few days slipping away. Like the summers of the last few years my heart breaks a bit when it’s done because it symbolizes one more step toward the dreaded goal of my kids growing up.


Ironic I know that summer is our down time and my solution to maximizing these last few weeks is to program us to do more. So yesterday I chose to go with the crowd and let go of the “get out of the house” expectation. Because what was already happening might be the memory that is talked about in 10 or 20 years. You know, that day we made a birthday party out of Play-Dough for our Littlest Pet Shop Penguin named Peter.


I’ll let childhood and free play and doing nothing win on this one.


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