Somehow the long of summer has melted fast like a bright red Popsicle abandoned in the sun. The sweet refreshing treat morphed into a sticky concrete-staining puddle.
Somehow the adventure-seeking, marshmallow-roasting days of summer have faded like smoke trails after Fourth of July fireworks. Rainbow bursts of color and light, instant image turned faint memory. The sky left muddied gray.
In seven days my boys start back to school.
And I feel like I failed summer.
I’m launching the second-born piece of my heart and can hardly believe that in one short week I’ll turn the corner from Mom-Home-with-Lots-of-Littles to Mom-of-School-Age-Kids, and the bulk of my days will be spent with just my Jude.
So this hallmark summer closing a hallmark motherhood season was suppose to be Hallmark perfect. The movie reels played in my mind with a Celtic/Taylor Swift/Jack Johnson soundtrack. (I have a vibrant imagination of what an outdoorsy/fun/laid back summer ought to sound like.)
The scenes flashed with cinematic flair from boys curled in cozy library nooks pouring over books to new swimmers stroking long and confident across a glimmering pool. I pictured productive mornings at the dining room table practicing letters followed by happy park play dates reconnecting with old friends.
I say “Hallmark perfect” in jest because, if you know me, you know I’m actually all about the real, gritty mess of life and motherhood, which is always full of beauty but rarely picturesque.
I honestly don’t think I set my expectations too high or my hopes too lofty. But I did set a few key Summer to-do’s as a guide to help make the most of these precious, time-flying days.
Nothing on that list got done.
My kids did not learn how to swim. They did not complete a summer reading program at the library. (Okay, for the sake of full disclosure, let’s go the distance and confess that we did not even step foot in a library. Not. One. Time.) We did not work on proper letter formation or reinforce the reading skills my oldest learned in kindergarten.
I don’t recall deep cleaning a single thing and that big basket full of who-knows-what on the side of my bed was not properly dealt with but rather strategically shifted week after week so as not to be tripped over or viewed when company came to visit. And there’s a long list of friends I genuinely wanted to connect with, to share hearts with over iced coffee while watching tiny tanned bodies flail through backyard sprinklers — but good intentions fell short without timely initiation.
As I look back on these fast-flying summer months I see the glare of not enough learning, cleaning, connecting, or reading, and too much glowing TV, blasting AC, yelling, rebelling, and close-quarter dwelling.
The reflection makes me feel pretty much defeated. Our whole summer withered like that sad red Popsicle. Wasted away before fulfilling its full potential.
But before I drown in a sticky pool of red dye self pity, I remember the power of perspective. I open my journal and read through hundreds of God gifts scribbled down as thanks. I scroll through my camera roll and see countless moments meaningful enough to capture in pixels.
And I remember this:
Focusing on my shortcomings crowds out memories of all the blessings.
And oh, there were so many blessings.
Not fancy or expensive. Simple blessings so ordinary I almost forgot.
Like painting rocks.
One glorious morning my three little explorers set out on a backyard expedition to uncover earthen treasure. We set up a washing station to carefully clean their stone discoveries. Once the earthen beauties were baked dry by the summer sun, we laid paper bags over cracked concrete — high-tech painting stations. And budding artists in Superman pajamas were joy-full to create.
Forgotten moments now remembered. Savored. Wouldn’t dare to trade.
I keep on memory-and-photo scrolling, determined to recall what other buried blessings made up our summer days and nights.
Soon the memories come streaming back…
Lego building extravaganzas that covered the dining room table for days. Little boys’ imaginations soaring free and wild. Plastic masterpieces zooming through space, shooting galactic bad guys. Blessing.
Back porch dinners, all five of us crowding around one tiny bistro table. Watermelon juice dripping from lips. Blessing.
Evening walks instead of early bedtimes. Savoring a soft summer breeze. Leaves catching golden light. Boyhood treasures —rubber bands and bottle caps — discovered at every turn. Blessing.
Summer storms breaking through the heat. Little ones catching raindrops on outstretched tongues. Digging race tracks in freshly made mud. Watching the parched land drink in the unexpected blessing.
And how did I discount the three mountain days of our first family-of-five tent camping adventure? S’mores around a glowing fire. Hunting for lizards with Daddy’s handmade lassos. Looking up and crouching down — God’s fingerprints at every turn. Blessings abound.
Sure, we were massacred by mosquitoes, two kids got a bloody nose, and the other puked on the windy road home. But the trip was not a failure. Not by a long shot.
Could I dare say the same thing about summer?
Dare I not forget the gazillion grains of sand dug and molded into castles, the 487 rounds of Candy Land played, and 98 hours of VBS songs sung. Dare I not minimize the countless stories read, three brothers crowded on one bed. Or family movie nights and french toast dinners. Brothers battling in bedroom soccer (stuffed penguin as the ball), Daddy-Ref with the scoreboard app teaching sons to be good losers and winners.
Could I have done summer better? Absolutely.
But if I were reading this recap on your Instagram or blog, or listening to you retell it in a coffee shop corner on a sacred friend date, I would never say you failed.
I would say you showed up, lived real, loved well, did your best or at least good enough.
And that is good. That is enough.
So I’ll muster the courage to whisper the same words to myself.
I’ll take stock of each blessing. Count every gift. Not to convince myself that I measure up as a mom, but to remember that God was with us. In us.
Remember that summer doesn’t come with a pass/fail grade. It isn’t judged on a rubric of productivity or graded on a bell curve of comparison to all the Facebook Jones’s.
Summer is a season. A time to break. To breathe.
To let little boys jump like ninjas through backyard sprinklers.
And that’s exactly what we did.