Do you ever wonder of all of the things you do with your children, which of them will matter to your family in the long run? Which experiences will truly help them, and which memories will sustain them?
Summer makes me think a lot about when my sons were little. I really miss the days when they were under 10–now that it’s been a full decade since then. WHOA that went fast. Since those few precious childhood summers fly by, I thought I’d share with you which of all of my children’s experiences they treasure the most, now that they are oh-so-mature twentysomethings.
Both of my boys joined by for a weekend dinner night, so we talked about summer’s gone by. It was really interesting to hear what they remembered from the past, what they loved, and what they didn’t. And they even talked about some mythical future when they themselves would have children, and what they would hope to be able to do to make summer memorable for their future families.
Overall, I’d say they mostly remembered things that we did often, the rituals of going to the beach on the weekend, and how our daily life in summer was influenced by where we lived and whether they could swim every day. This is what stood out:
My Children’s 20 Fondest Summer Memories
1. Swimming. Topped the list by far. Really, it was a running thread making several different appearances. Lesson here: teach your kids to swim and summer will take care of itself.
2. The summer I helped them pursue Pokeman rare cards was also a fond memory that they really laughed remembering. I had forgotten most of the things they remembered, that they would stalk new card arrivals and cajole me to go to the stores that stocked them, that they would beg for chores to earn money and look for new stores whereever we went that summer. I do remember their obsession in general, and can see them sprawled on the floor, making decks and filing away their treasures. Who knew? I’m glad I went with their whims since it has turned out to be a good memory for them.
3. Beach picnics, building massive sand villages, chasing little crabs. So many stories. So many hours and hours of free fun.
4. Water parks! Big, good memories here.
5. Driving to get ice cream cones or frozen yogurt parfaits. This is such a tiny ritual, and I only remember doing it a few times. We laughed about the complex negotiations for numbers of toppings. Man, those were easy, good dramas to have.
6. Our trip to the Smithsonian Museum. We took a few vacations during those years, and they both remember a lot about this one. The overall trip wasn’t flawless–we really screwed up by going to the Zoo on a hot day. But they have loved the Smithsonian ever since, and I’m so glad I made this trip happen at the right time for them.
7. Grabbing money for the ice cream truck, getting to pick out what they wanted, and paying for it themselves like a boss.
8. Afternoons playing war with super soaker water guns and water balloons with friends in the sprinkler. I loved hearing them laugh about this! And they laughed at me, too, because for years I wouldn’t buy water guns, only non-violent “squirters” in the shape of dolphins and fish. But when I finally let them have Super Soakers life got good, according to them.
9. Pool days. Again, swimming = summer in their minds. Their favorite days were lived in their swim trunks.
10. Lemonade stands, and the time my younger son and his friend sold a dish soap and glitter concoction in recycled cola bottles billing it as “Magic Cleaning Magic.” I also remember them buying cans of root beer and selling them at the park, but only one son vaguely recalls that. Apparently this cultural classic moment is a rite of passage for early summers.
11. Beach houses, except on the last pack up and cleaning day.
12. Watermelon on the porch. I remember moving to our new house one horribly hot July, and cracking open a cold watermelon amid a chaos of boxes. It’s just not summer without watermelon.
13. Two years of library book races where they tracked their reading and earned rewards. Ah, it was nice they remembered that!
14. Staying in hotels with a babysitter when I went on work trips and brought them along. Swimming in hotel pools and ordering room service, what’s not to love?
15. Buying new skim boards and snorkels.
16. One particular resort trip where they learned to flirt with girls at the poolside ping pong table and had a tab of their own at the snack bar while in a Kid’s Club program. They were a little over 10 years old. Big shots!
17. Soccer clinics. My oldest loved his soccer intensive camps. Good to know–those were expensive and a lot of driving!
18. Potluck/grilling parties with my circle of friends. These were favorite times for me, too.
19. Sleeping in and “school night” sleep overs.
20. Swimming in the spring-fed lake when we lived in Central Florida. I have amazing memories from that time, too.
And 3 Not-So-Winning Memories
1. Camping. Boy, at the time I sure hoped the work and expense would yield long-lasting beautiful memories, but no dice. The bad (black flies! rained out!) trumped the good in the memory department. To hear them talk you would thing they had been sent to live in Holes. They much preferred beach house and cabin rentals as ways to enjoy long days outside.
2. Most in-town day enrichment camps. At the time I thought I did a good job of balancing time off from work with them, vacations, time working from home with them and day camps in order to create good summers, and I remembering spending a lot of time and money finding cool enrichment camps for them to attend. Mostly, though, the experiences were pretty forgettable or replaceable or downright miserable. They much preferred time with babysitters at home swimming, building forts, making glitter soap to sell, hunting down ice cream trucks and filling their Super Soakers. I kind of wish I could do this one again, and have those pricey tuition payments back, too.
3. Sunscreen. Apparently I traumatized them with over-zealous, eye-burning, nostril-enflaming, don’t-go-in-the-water-yet applications so much that they are still talking about them. Oh well, I don’t regret that one.
Make your choices carefully as summer unfolds for your little ones. Trust me, these golden days seem long but they go by way too fast.
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