School starts this week for two of my kids, and it’s a good thing I don’t have to go back to school and write an essay entitled “What I Did This Summer.” I’m not sure if teachers still assign those, but there’s a good chance I would fail.
I started the summer with high hopes and lofty goals. The end of May had me compiling a list of things I would accomplish over the next three months. I carefully considered what needed to be done, what I would like to do, and what I had been putting off. Eventually, I came up with a list that looked something like this:
- Paint kitchen cupboards
- Exercise every morning before the kids get up
- Make every recipe in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook
- Lose 10 pounds
- Go away for a weekend with my husband – NO KIDS
- Read 12 books
Guess how many of those goals I actually accomplished during June, July, and August? NONE. I did manage to do the exact opposite of number 4, so there’s that. Apparently, I forgot that although the summer was stretching out long and productive before me, I have five children. The children obviously had their own goals, which included non-stop eating, having friends over every minute, and requesting to be taken places all day long.
Last week I began to feel a little panicked about all of this. I was afraid I had just wasted several weeks of my life. What do I actually have to show for this season now that it’s over? As I reflected, though, I came up with a new list; things that I had actually accomplished, things that still mattered even though they may seem small and insignificant.
I didn’t spend lots of hours by myself reading great novels, but I did read Anne of Green Gables aloud to my 11-year old. We snuggled on my bed in the evenings, laughed at Anne’s adventures, and cried together when Matthew died.
I didn’t cook my way through an entire cookbook, but when my husband brought home a new ice cream maker, we started keeping the freezer stocked with homemade ice cream. We invited friends and neighbors (some for the very first time) to sit around our picnic table; to laugh and talk and let the kids run wild in the yard.
My husband and I did not go away alone together. This simply wasn’t the season for it. Instead, we took walks after dinner, bike rides after dark, and sat on the back porch enjoying the summer evenings.
King Solomon, in his great wisdom, reminds us that “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
As a mom, I sometimes want every season to be one of harvesting, of laughter, of speaking, forgetting that there must also be planting and crying and quiet. I crave big accomplishments, measurable progress, and exciting adventures with and for my kids. I forget that it’s okay to spend a season quietly together, learning and growing and loving each other. As school starts, I know that this season will likely be different than the last. This next season may very well bring time for projects, travel, and personal accomplishments.
In hindsight, I can see now that I spent the summer surrounded by my husband and kids, learning to love them well, and that’s enough. It really doesn’t get any better than that.