Summer in Minnesota just isn’t for me.
Well, let me clarify, summer in Minnesota just isn’t for Mom me.
There is just something so unrealistic and high-pressure about summertime Minnesota. Everywhere I look on Facebook or Instagram or in the sky (billboards) or in magazines or on blogs, there are images of moms and their happy (not sticky-faced or overly sun-screened-white-faced, as mine generally are) children doing all kinds of things surrounding a summer bucket list: the beach, cool trips, crafts, cooking out, going to all the fun places, watching sunsets, drive-ins, national parks, state parks, endless campfires.
I love, love, LOVE the intention and heart behind the summer bucket list. I love wanting to give your children all these really cool and fun experiences, but let’s just be honest about the pressure. The pressure is too much. Too much. I cannot be the cruise director of these kids’ lives. I can barely direct my own life, let alone make sure each and every day Shepherd and Valor are making some kind of foraged craft on a picnic blanket while nibbling on homemade popsicles made from the berries we picked (ourselves!) last weekend. All before we set up our lemonade stand for charity.
It’s too much. It’s too much for me. Because, let’s be honest, with such little kids, I’m doing it all. And for what? Literally they color for like ten minutes max before someone is biting the marker tips off (Valor) and someone else is mad all the good pictures are taken (Shepherd). Play Doh? Again, maybe ten minutes before someone is eating it (Valor) and I’m tired of telling him not to.
Now, if my kids were older, like years and years older, sure. Maybe making a toilet paper roll bird feeder to hang from the porch wouldn’t seem like a gruesome, arduous task if they were older and knew what the hell was going on. But these lists and pictures and blogs are full of moms with toddlers doing this stuff. Toddlers at brunch on a patio. I don’t know where these moms are getting these toddlers, but I personally own two toddlers, and brunching with them is awful. Also expensive.
My kids are little, and honestly, it doesn’t matter what they’re doing as long as I’m present with them and doing it alongside them. We can color, sure. We can make…crafts…?…, sure. We can go pick berries and grill hot dogs over a fire and drink lemonade and run through the sprinkler and whatever else we’d put on a bucket list, or we can do what we normally do. We can play trains and play in the sandbox and I can throw chicken nuggets at them for lunch four out of five days. And you know what? They won’t know the difference so long as I’m actually doing it with them.
I love going places. I love play dates. I love activities (just ask Stephen). I love summer.
But I have little kids. And everything, every single sweet thing, is a production. Getting out the door? Literally, just getting their bodies out of the actual house, is a production. Going swimming? My God. Sunscreen and puddle jumpers and many, many commands. The park? Again, sunscreen and cups and telling Valor that if he doesn’t listen or if he runs away I will burn his blanket in front of him (his blanket = the best, most effective threat). The store? Jesus, come quick. Children’s museum? I need a friend and many coffees.
The point is that regular, non-bucket list items are enough. And honestly? They don’t care. Sure, they love the museum and if I let them live in a pool they would, but more than all that, they want me to play with them. That’s it.
It’s just me they want.
They want my lap and a book. The same book, over and over and over again, in silly voices and funny noises.
They want me to talk to them about their cars. Where are we driving, Lightening McQueen? Oh no! Are you stuck in the mud, truck? Let’s call the tow truck!
They want to build a super big tower from blocks and then kick it down.
They want to play Mommy Dinosaur and Mommy Robot.
They want me to ‘back it up’ (it’s what you think it is) and bonk them down with my booty butt.
That’s what they want.
I’m deep in my little-kids season. We’re tied to nap times. We walk slow and throw tantrums and can’t actually swim and don’t do that great at brunch establishments.
And all that’s more than okay.
So, the rest of this Minnesota Summer, I’m going to stay in my lane and be cool. My lane of nap times and early bed times, normal picnics in Ziplocs with cheese not cut in shapes, afternoons in the fishy pool and turtle sandbox in our backyard, and a couple special outings when Daddy is home and Mommy won’t kill anyone.
And I’m going to do the one thing that will for sure blow my kids’ mind: show up. I’ll be as present as I can be and read the book and make the ambulance noise and stack the tower and get in the pool.
Someday soon, we’ll make bucket lists and they’ll have an active role in planning things and executing stuff. But for now, we’re small. And small’s more than fine.