Summer Check List

I asked one of my neighbors how his summer was going and he gave me a funny look. “Is it summer?” he asked. He doesn’t have any kids, so he spends all of his free time riding bikes and playing disc golf. Summer is just a continuation of his life from the other nine months out of the year. Maybe it’s a little warmer, but his life doesn’t change with the seasons. It’s still full of bike rides and rounds of disc golf, just like fall, winter and spring. The thing about when you have kids, on the other hand, is that you live intensely by the seasons. Summer is a three-month break where you try to cram in an ass-load of outdoor adventure to make up for the nine months that you’re tied to a school schedule and weekends full of soccer games. As with all aspects of parenting, it’s both a blessing and a curse. Like most parents, I enter each summer full of hope and ideas about backyard campouts, backpacking trips, epic bike rides…In my mind, the summer break will be a three-month-long version of summer camp where the whole family will have daily adventures and our kids will learn practical wilderness skills and life lessons. Each day will end with S’mores and a fireside chat about those life lessons. Fade to black.

In reality, there’s a lot of Netflix binging and sleeping late. We do our best, but every year, summer seems to just slip by. While my kids did eat S’mores several times over the last few months, I’m not sure that they learned any life lessons. We had plenty of bike rides, but would I call any of them epic? I tried a backyard campout one night, but as we were settling down in the tent, my daughter asked, “why don’t we just sleep inside? In our own beds?”

It’s tough to argue with that logic.

In a mad dash to rectify our ill-spent summer, I took the last couple of weeks to systematically knock out summerish adventures. Diving from a dock into a cold mountain lake? Check. Surfing at the beach? Check. Epic bike ride filled with swimming holes and ice cream? Check. Maybe the greatest accomplishment of the summer was finding a new river to tube which comes complete with a rope swing. It was a beauty of a swing; based on the condition of the rope, I’m estimating it was hung maybe 30 years ago, but obsessively maintained by locals who have reinforced the original rope with frayed pieces of other ropes. Watching my son work up the courage to launch off of this dangling lawsuit into a (sort of) deep, cold pool was definitely the crowning accomplishment of the summer.

And it’s all he’s talked about since. Every once in a while, he’ll casually drop a hint that he wants to go back to the rope swing. “Remember that river? Where we tubed? With the rope on the tree?” He’ll ask while eating his chocolate chip waffles, or shooting baskets, or building Legos. “We should do that more often.”

It’s tough to argue with that logic.