Growing up the start of summer was signaled by the end of the school year and it was pure freedom from the time that the last bell rang until it was time to head back in August. Summer was full of bike riding, swimming, playing outdoors, catching fireflies, rushing to the ice truck, and innocence.
Summer just always seemed so endless to me and my parents always seemed to be more relaxed without the hustle and bustle of school and school activities. It is no surprise to me that that has translated into my parenting style when summer rolls around. It is a more relaxed lifestyle. My kids get more ice cream, run around barefoot outside like feral children, and bedtimes relax a bit…okay, who am I kidding? They relax a lot. I relax, the bedtimes relax, and the kids relax. Everybody wins!
For me, summer is a time when days get hotter, nights get shorter, and childhood nostalgia abounds.
Who’s up for a pool party?
The bulk of my summer memories revolve around water. My paternal grandparents had the best swimming pool and my Dad’s family, well, there is a lot of them. We spent every major summer holiday from Memorial Day to Labor Day around that pool with lots of cousins, cookouts, and cannonballs. We put on the most epic games of Marco Polo and diving board competitions. I honestly don’t know if my grandparents ever had a weekend without one gang of us or more floating in their pool.
My Grandma and Grandpa are gone now and the house with the pool has been long sold. The family doesn’t gather for the many cookouts and pool parties that we once did, but I can’t think of summer without thinking about those days. I will always remember being reminded that I better be bone dry before stepping in the house as not to drip on the floor. I smile every time I see a pack of graham crackers since my Grandma always had those for us to snack on. If I close my eyes and listen, I still hear the laughter of those days.
I have passed my love of the water on down to my kids. They have never met a pool they didn’t like. My parents bought a house in my senior year of high school with a pool similar to my grandparents. My babies have been growing up around the pool and celebrating the big summer holidays splashing in their grandparents’ pool. I hope it gives them the same sweet memories that I have.
My Dad is a retired autoworker and at the midpoint of summer each year his plant shut down for a few weeks and he was on vacation with us. This usually meant we were bound for an adventure somewhere really cool. Some years it was a Disney vacation or a trip to a beach and some years it was a trip that taught us something like Washington D.C. or to the battlefields of Gettysburg. These trips bred both a wanderer’s soul in me and a love for history that I still have today.
I know it wasn’t always the easiest or most economical for my parents to pack us all up and take us on a vacation. I am sure some years it was a real struggle and I know my brothers and I didn’t always appreciate it as much as we should have. However, looking back on those days now, I appreciate them more than I probably did while living them. Burying my Dad in the sand on a Florida beach or riding The Flying Dumbos at Disney World with him are moments that will be forever treasured.
My husband and I try to take our kids on adventures each year. I believe that they will also be memories they look back fondly on. Thirty years from now they won’t remember or care if our house was paid off or if we were entirely debt-free, but they will remember the family road trips and the experiences we had together.
Go play outside!
I am going to date myself here and admit that I am a child of the ’80s. My best summers were spent long before the invention of cell phones, streaming, or the internet which is crazy to imagine now. This revelation blows my children’s minds every time I tell them. They cannot believe that cartoons were only on at a certain time each day and we didn’t even have the Disney Channel unless it was a free preview week! They ask what did we do with our time and how in the world did we entertain ourselves?
It was simple. My brothers and I went outside. We rode bikes up and down the block. We put our imaginations to work as trees became forts and the front porch became a castle. Our swingset was home base for wicked games of tag or hide and seek. One summer my older brother and I wanted a Slip and Slide and my parents were not giving in on it. We got the great idea to use a tarp my Dad had in the garage as a substitute. I can still remember how we tried to slide down it after spraying it with a hose. Let me tell you from tarp burn experience, it is a VERY bad idea. DO NOT TRY IT AT HOME. But, at the moment, it sure was fun.
Luckily, my kids like to be outside. They love swimming and bike riding. They laugh and shriek as they blow bubbles or draw with chalk in the driveway. On hot days, they prefer to float in the pool or have water fights. If you stop by my house unannounced in the summer, you are likely to find us outside. You would also be likely to find at least one child running barefoot and living their best life.
Many summer days I find myself smiling as I watch my kids run around the yard laughing and playing together.
I love it even as I am reminding them to quiet down. I mean, because THE WHOLE neighborhood doesn’t want to hear them. It brings back memories of my brothers and I doing the same. I hope they experience this feeling. I hope their memories of childhood summers spent together will be something that warms their hearts long after summer ends.