This summer has been a little more laid back than usual. I have always tried to be laid back, but structure and schedule are usually my best friends. Usually I’m happier when I’m busy instead of bored trying to fill empty hours until Dad gets home. Most summers we have a bucket list of things we want to do, places we want to go, we have park days and goals. Some summers we sit down and make a list of things we want to learn and focus on one thing each week. (full disclosure… that little endeavor usually makes it three weeks tops before we all lose interest.) I started to notice though that doing specific things at specific times just added stress. I would harp at everyone to get to the table so we could have fun! I wanted to check it off my list whether or not the kids were into it at that particular moment.
This summer we have a vague mental bucket list, no goals, besides these ones we haven’t revisited in awhile and no schedule besides… get morning jobs done before you can play, only 1 hour of screen time, and leave mom alone for an hour in the afternoon (screen time gets bumped up if mom needs it in order to be left alone for an hour in the afternoon)…It’s also been cooler than usual for the desert this time of year which has led to lots of playing hard outside… and really stinky kids. Part of the switch is due to my kids getting older and being better able to entertain themselves; being able to run back and forth to friends houses unsupervised. Part of it is due to me having more to do around the house and on my own goals. Part of it is wanting to enjoy my kids more and not spend so much time prepping activities. So we refer to our vague mental bucket list when we get bored, or pull out the craft stuff, or our abandoned science experiments.
Watching my kids’ carefree days has made me think back to my summers as a kid….
From 1st grade – 8th grade, and honestly who remembers before that except for a few flashes of images, summer was the time to go “home”. Back to the States. I had a vague sense that home was where my family was. There are and were a lot of places I love, but home to me was more of a feeling. I felt home in our house in Saudi Arabia and I felt home at my Grandma’s house in Northern Utah. Home to my Mom though was America… so that’s what we called it too. Don’t get me wrong America is my country heart at soul, but as a child I didn’t understand that in depth. I knew my Mom cried with joy whenever we landed and would talk to random strangers about how great America was. She taught us the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem at home since it wasn’t taught in our international school.
We started counting down to “repat” (our vacation) 6 weeks before we left. I carried around a vague excited feeling for months. I pictured the long airline flights, looking out the window at the world slipping away beneath me and mentally figured out how many books I would need to get me through the flights. My Dad got 6 weeks of vacation but the rest of us always left for 3 months. Our school was on a trimester schedule so that meant skipping over a month of it. Luckily my Mom is very convincing and personable. We all spent out of school hours making up the work that we would miss so it wouldn’t be a problem.
We spent at least 6 weeks at my Grandma Barbara’s house (my Mom’s mom). It was home. There were really no friends except my siblings and we spent a lot of time together. Grandma had a suitcase of antique dolls and doll clothes we would get out and play with under her trampoline and under her pool table (being under something makes a doll home much more official), we would feed the ducks behind her house, get candy from her constantly replenished candy jar and eat tons of good food. After dinner we would play card games on the deck. Grandpa Jim always cheated. Then we would fall into bed and fight over the covers.
Lots of shopping was also necessary. We had to buy everything we would need for an entire year. I remember my Mom’s reams of lists as we’d make pilgrimage after pilgrimage to the mall, Walmart, Target, etc. Every Sunday we’d comb through the ads to see if anything we needed was on sale.
There were trips to the mountains, Park City, museums etc.
We would always go to see Grandpa Purdy in California and Grandma Diane and Grandpa Stan in Southern Utah. Those trips were exciting too because Grandma Barbara’s was home base… the other trips were a vacation…
On the way “home” to Saudi Arabia we always did a trip with just our family. Germany, Austria, Norway, England and one time Disney world. This is where my love of travel was born. Although I’m sure my parents don’t have such magical memories of traveling internationally with four little kids.
Reentry into Saudi life was always a little awkward at first. But, stilted conversation with friends we hadn’t seen in three months quickly gave way to normalcy.
My summers were so different from my children’s. They roam the neighborhood with packs of friends, which adds joy for them and more freedom for me. I have to fight to find time for just our family, whereas that’s all I knew. I hope the bonds between them are as strong and the feeling of freedom in the summer is the same….