Why I threw away our summer bucket list . . . and why I am never making one again!
Back in June, I thought it was a great way to get the summer started . . . Let's make a Summer Bucket List!! All six of us will sit down together and list a few things we hope to do as a family this summer. The State Fair, go to the beach, make s'mores, watch fireworks, read a book or two. This is what all the good stay at home parents do, right? Make this awesome, but reasonable, list so we have things to look forward to throughout the summer. With three whole months of summer ahead of us, the bucket list is a guide, and also an indicator that, as a mom of four kids, I have my shit together and I'm going to make this the best summer ever!
As you can see in the picture, we did a bunch of things on our list, but some of the items needed to be edited. (We can be flexible, right?) The kids wanted to go to a big, fancy water park, but we bought a season pass to our community pool instead, which had water slides, fountains, etc. We were there every week this summer. Every time we wanted to make S'mores, the weather wasn't quite right for a fire, so we improvised and roasted our marshmallows in the microwave. Still delicious, right?! And while we didn't all go to a specific beach together, we went to a friend's lake home and went to our family cabin twice. On top of these bucket list items, there were sleepovers, park programs, swimming lessons, lots and lots of legos, bike rides, music in the park, movies, and bouncy houses. It was a great summer!
But still, the kids complained because we didn't do everything on our list. They whined, "I'm bored!","This was the worst summer ever!", "That bucket list was a lie!", "You promised!"
They saw the bucket list as a promise, a guarantee that this would be a great summer if, and only if, we did those exact things. They were disappointed in me for not following through and I was disappointed in them for being ungrateful for the summer they did have. That's when I threw away the bucket list. I ripped it up and threw it away.
The next day, we all sat down and made a new list. The Summer Gratitude List. There are so many children in our country who spend their summers home alone, without proper nutrition, without adequate childcare, without transportation, without a pool pass or a cabin to go to. For some children in our country and and right here in our community, the last day of school means the last day of structure, the last day with a caring adult, the last day a nutritious meal is served. My children are so privileged and they were showing it by complaining that all of the fun we had this summer just wasn't good enough. Did I do this? Did I set them up for disappointment by making a list of fun activities that we might get to during the summer months?
Pinterest and Instagram are full of Summer Bucket List and Summer Rules photos; inspiration to make this summer your best yet! There is this unspoken rule that if I make the colorful list, and use the cute printables from Pinterest, then I am a good parent. If I don't, then all hell might break loose!
Making our Summer Gratitude List was the best experience, and the gratitude has continued over the last week or so since we made it. The kids keep adding more and more to the gratitude list as they continue to play with friends or just spend a nice afternoon outside. They are finally learning to appreciate the 'little things' that make summer wonderful, and are noticing that they are actually quite lucky to have all the experiences they do.
Next summer there will be no Bucket List. We might have a calendar available to see what's scheduled or what's going on each month, but no more summer to do list. No more obnoxious expectations and unnecessary disappointment. No more comparing our activities with the neighbors and wishing we could do more than we can afford or have time for with a family of six. At the end of next summer, or whenever our expectations get over-inflated, we will be making another gratitude list. It's not too late to change our thinking in order to see the abundance all around us. We lost track of that for a bit, but I'm really hopeful that we can get it back.