Mary Poppins Isn’t Real: Thoughts on Doing Summer Slow



I have this thing I do every summer, where I decide that this is going to be the BEST SUMMER EVER! I have big plans for big fun with my family of four. We will hit the splashpad and the pool, the zoo, the children’s museum. Ice cream! Grill outs! Parties! VACATION!!!!

We need to make memories, people! We’ve got two months to MAKE IT MAGICAL!

I have this theory that teachers are particularly bad about big summer plans. We get the summer off too and are afraid of wasting even a second of our precious vacation. We think, after spending all year wrangling five sets of 35 teenagers a day, surely I can handle my own two children with almost no effort! Y’all, did you know that sometimes children listen to you simply because you aren’t their mother? It is true. Also, did you know that three-year-olds are just like teenagers, only with twice the will power and ability to reason with someone? This, also, is very very true.

My big plans for the summer have never really quite made it into the epic trips I imagine. Once, when the girls were just barely two and ten months old, I decided to take my family camping. Like camping camping, in a tent, with a fire and a walk to the bathrooms. I have really great memories of camping growing up and I just wanted them to have the same experience. It didn’t really occur to me the reason I have those memories is because I was old enough to remember.

When a hurricane shut down the Atlantic coast the same weekend we were headed to a nearby campground, I did not take this as a sign; instead I re-routed us an hour further away, to the Gulf Shores. We got there when it was late and dark and I am still not quite sure how my husband and I managed to get the tent set up with the one girl rolling off her blanket onto the dirt and the other wielding the hammer in an effort to “help” with the tent stakes.

It was so hot that night I don’t think anyone slept, and it only got hotter and more humid the next day. (Side note: This is what happens in Gulf Shores in July.) Still, I pressed on. The point in which I pulled the kids out of the ocean because of a shark sighting was the point in which my husband gently suggested we rent a motel room. That vacation was saved by air conditioning, a motel pool, and a very very patient man. Of course the girls don’t remember any of it. They weren’t even three yet.

I don’t blame myself for trying. My intentions were golden, I just wanted it to be amazing so desperately that I forgot that a kiddie pool in my own backyard is totally amazing to a two-year-old. I forgot that some of my favorite summer memories are riding public transportation to the big library downtown and running through the sprinkler with my sisters. I forgot that my best tent memories are the times when my mom let me and my friends set it up in our own backyard in middle school.

Instead of embracing these normal memories for the magic they are, I decide I need to infuse magic into everything. I think I have to be Mary Poppins, with the perfect sayings, the even temperament, the bag that holds everything anyone could ever want. I get it in my head that everyone and everything needs to be practically perfect in every way.

But Mary Poppins isn’t real.

There is no actual measuring stick that will declare me Queen of Summer Fun. Taking the kids to the pool most days because I want to sit by it is more than enough for them to have a great time. If I swim with them, I need to award myself bonus points. If I swim with them at least half the time, I need to give myself a medal. It is okay for me to shove whatever chips I have in the cupboard in the bag; my children do not need Pinterest-perfect snacks when they are waiting for adult swim to be over. Good enough is good enough as long as no one is starving. We don’t have to go to the zoo and the planetarium if we are too tired. We don’t have to hit every ice cream joint in town (although that seems like a good goal to me). We can eat ice cream from the grocery store, and if we want to be fancy we can get a box of cones, and those memories are also magical.

In the summer, I am in a constant battle with the voices in my head that more is always better, and breakneck speed is the only way to operate. It is easy for me to give in to the idea that I’d better be Mary Poppins if I want my kids to be happy.

But the imperfections are where the memories are. This summer I am refusing to hold myself to a ridiculous standard. I am slowing down and declaring Good Enough just perfect for my clan.