The Summer Vacation Manifesto

Here I am, mere days away from the end of the school year. I’m in the single digit packed lunches countdown. The homework has officially stopped and we are all pretty much coasting toward Friday, when the bell rings for the last time until September.

I remember, as a kid, that feeling of having the whole summer in front of me. It was exhilarating. Long days and bathing suits and no schedules and the reliable bell of the ice cream truck. The Good Humor crumb fudge bar with the solid chocolate center.

And now here I am at the helm of Operation Summer Vacation. Parenthood has promoted me from a passenger on that journey to the role of Cruise Director. Holy crap, I went from guest star to Julie McCoy, or possibly Captain Stubing (children of the 80s, please say you’re with me here).

I want to recreate the same feeling for my kids that I had in my childhood summers. I guess it should be as easy as telling them to go play with the neighborhood kids outside for the day and I’ll see them later and we can all watch The Love Boat and call it a night. But I think we all know that, somehow, it’s just not that way so much anymore.

This week, I’m asking my kids to make wish lists of all the things they want to do this summer — big and small — with no promises from me to get to everything. My daughter wants to plant a garden. My son wants to learn to dive. They both want to go on a roller coaster. Oh, and ice pops for lunch and dinner every day. See? It can’t all happen. But it’s good to catalog, to wish, to aspire.

Then I started thinking about my own wish list for this summer. Are there places I’d like to go? Sure. But that’s not really what I mean. I’m still working on it, but here are a few highlights.

  • I will not over schedule my kids. While there will be some weeks of day camp (hell, yes) and planned activities, I will not create the same morning routine madness that haunts us every school day {“GET IN THE CAR, GET IN THE CAAARRRRR!”}. We. all. need. a. break. And Mama needs to finish her coffee without nuking it six times.
  • We will eat outside as much as possible. Unless I am yelling at my kids and find my voice carrying throughout the neighborhood. Then maybe inside is best. If it were environmentally acceptable, I’d also declare it the season of paper plates. Or, maybe I’ll just do that quietly and promise to offset it somewhat by not running my dishwasher.
  • I will take each of the kids on individual outings to do something that they choose. As a result, I think I just inadvertently entered a Lego Tournament of Champions or agreed to have my toenails painted in 10 different shades of purple. That’s OK. The baby will make things right by agreeing to look for a nice pair of casual wedges with me at the mall, and then we can recap over Starbucks. Remember, when they can’t talk, they can’t object.
  • We will get to the ocean. In the ocean, I should say. Hopefully more than once. Hopefully not in an area with any shark sightings. And more hopefully in an area within walking distance to a stellar ice cream establishment.
  • S’mores. That needs to happen more. How about once a week?
  • I will not let my summer be swayed by bathing suit neurosis. Do I wish I looked better in swimwear? Uh, yeah, absolutely. Do I wish that a swim burka was all the rage this year? Yes! When will this happen? But summer is here and I’ll just need to trust the slimming panels on that new one-piece I bought. Even if this marketing ploy sounds like new home construction.
  • I will attempt to grow some form of food in our yard. I would elaborate but I have no idea WTF I’m doing except that I heard strawberries or tomatoes or peppers might be best, if we can address “the rabbit issue.” I’m totally in over my head. Look out, ecosystem — I am about to screw up the balance of everything on Earth, forever. Sorry.
  • I will calm the hell down in general. Mostly. Look, I’m a Type A brain trying to rein in the chaos that the third baby brought here a year ago. I’ll surely retain my position as the kids’ sunscreen application champion (it’s like chasing greased pigs), but for less essential elements of summer vacation — as Queen Elsa so aptly sings, over and over and over — I’ll just let it…well, you know. At least I’ll try. I’ll never be breezy but I can seasonally pretend.
  • Speaking of Frozen (because, when are we not?): I will not tolerate any complaints about the heat. We will not whine about being hot. LET US NOT FORGET THE POLAR VORTEX, PEOPLE. Do you not remember dressing in 16 layers to walk to the car parked in our own driveway? 
Like I said, I’m still working on my list. I’m sure that real life will crop up and somehow I won’t be wandering around, care-free in my bathing suit with failed slimming panels, tending to my vegetable garden while enjoying the 90-something-degree heat index and eating on the back deck. It won’t be all unicorns and bikini bodies, for sure.
But if I can somehow get the essence of fireflies and kickball and long days with warm nights, then maybe I was destined to be Julie McCoy all along.
If not, I guess I can pursue a summer as Isaac the bartender.


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  1. alexandra says:

    Ah, thanks for the reminder. The “What would you like” lists. We did one last year, need to get on that this morning. THANK YOU.

  2. Love this so much. I am working hard on the breezy one myself. I really want to remember that this summer is golden, that my girls are just the right ages for memories and to actually make them. Great post! :)-Ashley

  3. Kizz says:

    I believe that the perfect combination of events will be eating s’mores outside with ice pops jammed down your bathing suit because, HEAT INDEX! And, frankly, that sounds awesome.

  4. This is just what I needed to read today, considering that in the past 3 days I’ve been too busy, too hard on myself over my curves, and way too upset about the 90 degree temperatures. Thanks for the reminder to live in the moment and just soak it all in, without complaint!

  5. Pretty awesome manifesto. I am especially find of the “not over scheduling”. My daughter is having a great time staying up to catch fire flies- she doesn’t need a bunch if structured classes to have fun.
    I think you should add “drink wine slushies uninterrupted” in there somewhere….

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