Last year I realized what a lot of people already knew. Summer is a trickster.
She serves a plate of wide-open freedom with a side of strangling expectations.
Other parents ask what camps Henry is doing. None, I answer and then fumble through an unsolicited explanation.
(Why is it so hard for me to remember that “no” is a complete sentence?)
They ask where we’re going on vacation. Well, Georgia, then the beach, then Forest City, then Keith and I to the beach, then I pray we get a month of no highways.
Wow, you guys are busy, they say. But most weekdays we’re loosey-goosey, I counter.
(Why do I feel they’re judging?)
Why is it so hard to stand firm in our family’s decisions, to not apologize, to remember we made them thoughtfully and prayerfully?
Because I want to manage others’ opinions of me.
Ouch. There, I said it. Picture me wincing as I type these words. I’m ashamed to say it, but there’s the truth. I want you to approve of me. What makes this so crazy, impossibly hard is the fact all of you have different ideas and ideals. One family’s perfect summer is another’s nightmare.
(Obviously, I’m not just talking about summer.)
So, if I want to make Friend A like me, I’ll have to enroll Henry in 5 weeks of Spanish camp. And if I want Friend B to like me, I’ll have to make a fairy garden with him. And if I want Friend C to like me… You get the idea.
Thank goodness, I have a merciful God, a grounding center, to keep me in check. I don’t want to make all those people happy more than I want to plan the best summer for my trio.
In our home, we can’t drift into June expecting everything to be perfect if we figure it out day by day. We don’t work that way. All three of us need:
- Daily goals and a loose routine.
- Events to anticipate.
- Time to nest and decompress.
These are Dangel family truths, proven through time and experience. When I feel flustered, revisiting them usually shows me what is awry.
If we struggle with comparison syndrome or wanting people to approve our plans or even general discouragement, it’s time to think through our family truths. Whether you’re a family of one or twelve, I guarantee you have core characteristics. Want to try? These questions may help:
- What makes us happy?
- What drains and/or frustrates us?
- What do we require to function at our best?
I’m not suggesting we eliminate everything that frustrates and do only what makes us happy. (I mean, there is such a thing as too much chocolate cake.) These are just truths to guide our decisions.
Summer can choke with disappointment thicker than her sticky heat. We don’t have to let her. I wish you the best July and August ever. I hope you love your summer.
If you want to dig even deeper, Tsh Oxenreider suggests writing a Family Purpose Statement. Admittedly, I haven’t tried this, but I think it’s a stellar idea.
Marian Vischer wrote “How to Receive Your Own Summer Life,” a post I think will resonate with a lot of women. Whether you’re tired of looking at others’ vacation pictures or overwhelmed by violent news stories, she writes for you.