A few days ago in Colorado, the temperatures were still well above 90, and it definitely still felt like summer. Today, it is a cool 60 degrees, and it has been pouring rain for several days nonstop. In fact, several of my close friends have just been given orders to evacuate their homes due to flood conditions. Summer vacation seems like a distant memory, all of a sudden, but this week for Finish the Sentence Friday, we are supposed to be writing about our best memory of summer. I have spent several days trying to filter through my summer memories in order to determine what the “best” part was.
I decided it was this:
My best memories of summer were all the trips we took with the kids. We went to Taos, Grand Lake, Estes Park, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, and Glenwood Springs. It’s so special to be able to explore such beautiful places with our children.
Then I realized that was total crap. While there were certainly lovely, memorable, funny, or poignant moments of each trip, there were an equal number of moments that totally sucked.
I’m sure you aren’t surprised by this, as I spent a good portion of the summer
bitching honestly sharing with you what our travel experiences were like. I whined about Kidz Bop in the car, taking the kids to restaurants, struggling to stay present on vacation, and I will spare you the details of our latest excursion from last weekend. (When. Will. We. Learn???)
Here is my point: no matter how much complaining we heard from our oldest child about how much she hates to hike, no matter how many times our toddler woke up coughing in the middle of the night, regardless of the fact that our minivan was so thoroughly trashed after one trip that squirrels were eating out of it, we continued to say, “Hey! Let’s take a trip this weekend! Won’t that be fun?”
While each adventure was painful, aggravating, or exhausting in its own way, we still looked back on it fondly, and with the primary take-away message that it is enjoyable to explore different places with our kids. Clearly, our judgment is questionable.
Awhile back, when I made my Do-Again list, I commented that I am so fond of nostalgia partly because it is more comfortable to look back on experiences than it is to be actually living them. We have the benefit of remembering the entire picture, and escaping the stress of not knowing how a particular incident is going to resolve. (How bad is this dinner outing going to be? Is she going to take a decent nap? Will we have any fun on this hike?)
It made me worry if I really do live for nostalgia. Is the only purpose of my memory-making so that I can one day look back on it wistfully? I started to think about many of my childhood, college, and young adult memories; I wondered if I am sometimes nostalgic for memories that quite possibly sucked while I was making them. And I wonder how many days, weeks, or months will pass before my husband and I feel inspired to schlepp the kids on another adventure, certain that we will have the time of our lives.
I think our memories must wipe out these unpleasantries as we age; my own mother has mostly positive recollections of her parenting experience when my brother and I were young. But I remember one story she has told me over and over, about a time when she was disappointed. As a child, she and her sister didn’t get treats very often; it was a big deal when they indulged in something special. Her favorite childhood treat was a Pepsi Float, and one day, when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, she made one for me. In my own embellishing, masochistic mind, I like to imagine how delightedly she prepared this snack, how carefully she poured the soda, and how gleefully she set the drink in front of me, eagerly awaiting my reaction.
I, of course, hated it. Thereby crushing her dreams. This is one of the only stories she tells about a time when we, her children, disappointed her with our response to her planning and efforts. To me, however, many days in my house are “Pepsi Float” days; on some small level, my children often “fail to perform” in the way I had imagined they might.
I think so much of this has to do with our expectations as parents; we feel a thrill when we think our children are going to be excited about something, and perhaps we feel a longing to relive the magic of our own childhood. Maybe we are trying to live vicariously through them, in an attempt to claim some of that sense of wonder. But we build things up in our minds (I am totally Clark Griswold like that) and we feel disappointed when the epic outing we had planned falls flat on its face mid-meltdown.
While having coffee with a friend yesterday, I saw a sign advertising a Celtic Harvest Festival coming up. I almost said to her, “Hey! That would be fun! We should totally go!” And then I realized. No. It would likely not be fun. If the two of us were going sans kids, we would most assuredly have a good time. Dragging two toddlers who are desperately searching for an opportunity to bolt into the crowds and who will inevitably go limp-baby when being wrangled, not to mention a 2nd grader consumed with greed for every brightly colored knick-knack or sugar-coated treat, through a heavily populated area? Yeah. Not so much.
I realize this sounds terribly cynical, but have no fear. My melancholy reflections on the realities of memory-making with young kids will soon be replaced by a sentimental longing for our summer vacation, thanks to my rose-tinted sunglasses.
And it’s not like every moment was awful. Come to think of it, we saw some beautiful things, and had some pretty good times. Get comfortable, and I’ll show you a few pictures. Pass me a margarita, and those sunglasses, please.
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Next week’s sentence is: “I deserve a medal for the time I….”