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Why I dread the question: “So, what are you doing this summer?”

Kids at the Beach

kath | Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Tommy Tighe - published on 07/13/17

Such a simple question, but here's why it makes me panic ... and what I've learned.
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If your family is anything like mine, now that school is out, you’ve likely been asked what your family is doing for the summer. It’s odd that such a simple question would lead to me sweating and panicking, but it does!

Typically the conversation goes like this:

Friend: We are soooo booked with fun stuff this summer! We’re going camping near the lake, taking a week in Europe to experience all the culture, and the kids are in like 36 different summer camps! So, what are YOU guys doing this summer?

Me (now anxious and sweating profusely): Um…we might have a BBQ one night, and um … maybe go on a bike ride …

There is a typical reaction to my answer: a friendly response with clear bewilderment of why we aren’t doing a million cool things like they are. And my reaction to their reaction is also quite typical: a sudden fear that maybe I’m not doing enough, not giving my kids the experiences they need to have a worthwhile summer to report on when they get back to school in a couple of months.

It almost seems that a great summer, like so many other things in our life, has become just another thing to covet. 

But the question of what we’re doing with our summer time serves as a reminder to me that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If we want to make sure our family has that great summer we’ll always remember, we don’t need to overbook ourselves and put our kids in every single overpriced summer camp out there. Instead, we need to take time to build our relationship with our family, grow closer through shared activities and quality time, and do things that remind us of where our priorities lie.

Building relationships

The busyness of the school year can have families seemingly running at full speed in all kinds of different directions. It’s a rush to get dressed with teeth brushed and still make it to school on time; it’s a rush to get home and get homework done before dinner; it’s a rush to get to bed on time so everyone can be rested enough to do it all over again in the morning. And that’s not even mentioning all the extra curricular activities our children are involved in these days.

Summer gives us a chance to slow down, if only we’re willing take the opportunity.

Some of my favorite moments during the summer involve simply sitting and having a conversation with my 7- and 4-year-olds about the books they’re reading. Giving them all the time in the world to explain the characters, the story line, and the things they find exciting and interesting is one of my greatest joys. It helps me grow closer to them by learning about their likes and interests, and it helps them to feel loved and appreciated by getting undivided time to share what they’re excited about.

Growing closer

During the school year, many families have a tendency to drift apart. Everyone gets caught up in what they’re doing (projects, sports, work, etc), and the opportunities to grow closer as a family can seem few and far between. The summer is a great time to actively take steps to grow closer to each other, and growing closer doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go on an all-out extravagant trip.

One of the ways I feel like we grow closer as a family is being silly together: being willing to make a mess together, run through the sprinklers together, or make up a game that only we know the rules to. On a recent bike ride, our 7-year-old asked the whole family to play a game he made up. We didn’t understand the rules and didn’t quite understand why Mom and Dad always seemed to end up on the losing end despite it seeming like we won, but we took the time to just have fun and not be overly serious about having the game go “the right way.”

When we just go with the flow of our kids, growing closer becomes a fun reality.


What do we want to get out of summer? Do we want to have an awesome checklist of things we did to share with our co-workers? Or something our kids can brag about to their friends at school? Or, do we want to remind our children and ourselves where our priorities really should and do lie?

If the answer is the latter, then our summer goals should be focused around that desire.

When our kids look back on their summer break, I hope they look back and are able to see just how loved they are, how important they are, and how great it is to be a part of our family.

There are tons of ways we can make this happen, and for each of our families it will be unique. We shouldn’t be worried about trying to have that perfect summer to show off to everyone else. Instead, we should be taking a look at what matters to our particular family and work to make sure that how we spend our time this summer matches up with what’s most important to us.

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