Learning to let go, as the picture of summer evolves

I woke up with a summer cold last Friday and knew that it had the potential to sabotage the weekend. We didn’t have much in the way of plans, which I suppose was good, but I crave that family time and the opportunity to make magic together. It was the solstice, and we’d talked about heading out to Virtue Cider in Fenville and then catching the sunset over Lake Michigan with some family friends. Fortunately my germs didn’t sway their dedication to the plan, and I figured it might be my best chance to make something of the weekend in case I felt worse in the coming days.

The kids ran wild together, discovering trails (full of poison ivy!) we didn’t know were there, chasing chickens, flipping over in hammocks and just enjoying the expansive surroundings.

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We adore these friends, and enjoyed the snippets of conversation that we were able to squeeze in as much as the kids enjoyed their wild freedom

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The sunset wasn’t one to write home about, but there were glimmers of magenta at the very end as the sky grew dark, and the kids splashed and ran along the beach in ways that felt like magic.

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The rest of the weekend, though, was a bit of a let down. I felt less well on Saturday and Sunday, and was too tired to follow through on doing anything special and energetic with the kids. As a result, they spent most of the weekend disappearing into the yards of neighborhood friends. When they’d scampered off on Sunday afternoon I’d said to them, “The weekend is my chance to spend time with you, so please don’t be gone for very long.” They promised me that they wouldn’t, and then didn’t return for roughly five hours.

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By Sunday evening I was feeling truly morose about the state of affairs. Sure, I’d taken a brief nap on the sofa while Kristin watched soccer, I could have done any number of things with my free time (if I hadn’t felt so drained by my cold), but instead I found myself grieving the lost time and spiraling quickly into the realization that perhaps this is it: they’ve crossed over into the place in which they prefer to play with friends rather than spend time with us. I am not ready for that place yet.

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They are six and four. I want many more years of them following us from room to room and eagerly requesting family adventures and quality time together. And they do all of those things: they ask us to play and do puzzles and climb on our laps when we’re trying to eat or work, but they now have the independence to go find fun when we aren’t producing it. There’s beauty in that. The whole reason we moved to Michigan was so that they could have the kind of childhoods that we had. My most magical memories were of summers cartwheeling through the neighborhood from house to yard to woods with a band of friends, rollerskating under streetlights well past dark, riding our bikes to the 7-11 to buy candy. We had such freedom, and it was important in so many ways.

I want our kids to be creative and learn how to make their own fun, to be outdoors and roam and navigate friendships and conflicts and to feel truly free, especially in the summer. I’m proud of the friends they’re accumulating, I love the sound of them all playing as it echoes down the street, but I miss them, and selfishly I was deeply sad about it.

Are they now old enough that the choice is either to let them go, or to work harder to produce adventures and activities that are impossible to resist? Sometimes I love that, but I can’t pull it off every day.

I’m sad, but I’m also trying hard not to catastrophize (it’s my go-to in times like this), and to embrace all of the good things that I know they’re gaining now that they’ve reached this stage. I’m thankful that our neighborhood offers what it does in the way of freedom and opportunity for play, and I’m thankful that our kids are learning and growing and loving their summer. I need to remember that it’s only just begun and so has our summer bucket list. I’m going to get even more intentional about planning family fun when I can, but also try to stay focused on all of the good in what they’re discovering as they grow.

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