The Simple Summer

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

When I was small, summer meant the smell of chlorine and cheap plastic inner tubes. We’d visit the local pool store to ready our above ground at the start of each season; she was nothing fancy, but she cooled us off and attracted a steady stream of friends and family to splash with. It also meant we stretched the days to their seams, making the most of every minute and begging our parents to stay up even after the sun went down. Those humid nights when they threw up their hands with an “oh well, why not!” were as good as winning the lottery: rich with sticky s’mores and too many popsicles, lit up by lightning bugs, culminating in a neighborhood-wide game of Manhunt. The memories are priceless.

Now, as a parent myself, the summers seem full of pressure; summer camps are full half a year in advance, sports are all booked up, vacations are plentiful and grand, and of course, all of it is well-documented on social media. It’s easy to get swept up in the idea of what a summer should look like for our young kids: have they seen all of their friends, tried plenty of new things and had a sufficient number of experiences? 

Did our parents frantically ask themselves these questions and put the same pressure on themselves? I’m no sociologist, but without social media to document every minute, perhaps summer truly was simpler in those days. At some point along the journey from then to now, simple became synonymous with boring; but with increasingly harried parents and jam-packed schedules, maybe simple isn’t so bad after all. 

Don’t get me wrong: I am a restless soul and a proud maker of seasonal “bucket lists.” I want my little girls to see, hear, taste and experience new things, to make memories that will still be with them when they’re my age. But I think we all—myself included—could benefit from taking a step back from the lists, from the posts, stories and reels, from it all, to reflect on what made our own summers magical. Was it learning a second language, zip lining through a forest, or exploring mountain peaks in a foreign land? Probably not. 

Maybe you planted flowers with your mom, dirt caking under your fingernails as you talked about life. Perhaps you spent afternoons with your grandparents, the only reprieve from their un-air conditioned house melty root beer floats on the front porch. Could be you ran wild with the kids on your street, savoring your first tastes of freedom as you bounced from yard to yard living in your own imaginary world.

I’m sure there were also times when you were bored. Weren’t we all? Those might be the best times of all, as a child; stolen pockets of time with absolutely no expectations and no choice but to let our imaginations run wild. What an underrated treat it is to be bored – let’s not take that away from our kids.

For me, the magic was in that distinct smell of chlorine. It was my older brother cooking burgers on the grill, walks with my mom, water from the hose, mid-day naps with sunburned cheeks, and picnics of saltine cracker sandwiches with my best friend under her willow tree. It was the “late nights,” as we came to call them, when we felt the rules didn’t apply. These no-frills summers may not have been Instagrammable—in fact, there are few pictures to prove they existed (such a pain to develop film back then)—but they were time spent with the people I loved most and the camera roll in my mind is better than any digital highlight reel.

My favorite memory with my own kids so far this summer was throwing on our sandals and walking in the summer heat to the grocery store down the road to choose our own pints of ice cream, whatever flavor they wanted. They partially melted on the way home, but we took spoons to them to taste-test each other’s selections while chatting at the kitchen table. They said I was the best mom and that it was the best day, and I was reminded once again that simplicity reigns.

So now, when I begin to feel that familiar uncertainty creep in about whether I’m giving my kids “the best summer ever,” when I worry that we haven’t crossed enough off our lists or the memories we are making aren’t grand enough, I recall the summers of long ago and am reminded of what really matters: saltine crackers, fireflies, and pool floats. Joy in each other. Joy in the little things.   


  1. It sounds like a wonderful summer! I agree, there can be a lot of pressure to do all the thins - but the unplanned relaxed summer days are the best. So important to just spend time together as a family :)

    Hope you are having a good weekend :)

    Away From The Blue

    1. Thank you! I couldn't agree more, and so glad it resonated with you. :) Hope you had a wonderful weekend... thanks for stopping by! xo

  2. I'm pretty happy that for a few more years it will still be easy summers for us, maybe a camp for Sophia next year, but I enjoy making memories like going to farms and easy beach days!

    1. Yes! Sometimes it's the little things that end up to be the actual biggest, ya know? So glad you are able to enjoy these days with your sweet Sophia :)

  3. We almost always strive for simple summers and simple pleasures. My kids are all well into their teen years and never really attended any camps (though I vaguely remember one son doing a day camp for painting that we signed up for at the very last minute). But I tend to strive for a simple, slow type of family life and my boys rarely ask to do outside activities anyway since they've gotten so used to growing up that way and enjoy not being on the go all the time too.

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Joanne! I love hearing other families' experiences and "way of life." There is so much to be said for simplicity, especially in parenthood. Hope you are savoring these last days of summer! :)


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