The Blessings of a Slow Summer


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As the summer before last was just beginning, my normally very active husband seriously injured his foot in a work accident. That accident changed all of our summer plans. Camping trips were rescheduled, family reunion vacations cancelled and outside yard projects postponed. But with a borrowed wheelchair, and a set of crutches, we experienced a summer like never before.

We spent many summer afternoons and evenings sitting outside as a family watching the kids play. Knowing we couldn’t accomplish any of the major yard projects we had anticipated, we relaxed. And it turned out to be one of our favorite summers. My children still talk fondly of the many evenings that turned into unplanned visits with friends, homemade milkshakes on the back patio, spontaneous barbeques with neighbors, and a chips and salsa taste test on the driveway. With no projects beckoning us for completion and no trips needing to be packed for, Mike’s summer accident slowed down our summer and made it one we dream of recreating.

As I anticipated last summer, my plans were even bigger than the previous years. Despite the fact we would have a newborn baby, I felt like I needed to make up for the previous summer of cancelled plans. As summer approached, and the economy waned, we felt it wise and necessary to conserve our money. I admit that I frequently complained to my husband; I felt like we were being unfair to our children by planning so few special trips and activities two summers in a row. His ever-wise counsel simply said, “You don’t have to spend money to make memories.”

Recently I asked my children what some of their favorite things from the last few summers have been. This is what I heard:

“The time we went to the canyon and I caught fish in the Tupperware container the Rice Krispie treats had been in.”

“Sitting in the shade by the driveway and you showing me how to text on the phone.”

“Being squooshed together and sleeping in the tent.”

“Craft class on the back patio and you pretended you were our teacher and your name was Delilah.”

“Dad re-arranging rocks and making a pretend hot tub in the canyon creek.”

Though I believe amusement parks, museums, and family vacations have a firm place in childhood memories and family bonding – and we’ve had our fair share of that sort of thing – I love these words by a wise man, Dallin H. Oaks:

A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites.  At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most.  The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.”

As summer quickly approaches, I receive flyers and mailings advertising season passes to parks, I read signs telling me about great prices here, and kid camps there. This year we don’t anticipate any broken feet, we have no newborn baby and the economy is turning around. Yet, my vision of summer activities and creating memories has drastically changed. This summer I am going to do my best to recreate the past two summers. This summer I am living by these words, “Enjoy the little things in life. For one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

We are going to slow down. I am going to do my best to nag less about chores and to make projects around the house and yard into relationship-building activities with my kids – even if that means they won’t be done as efficiently as I might like. I am going to try my hardest to relax about the messes a project may create. I am going to heed the advice of this quote by Anna Quindlen that hangs on my kitchen cabinet:

“The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make…I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of my children sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing, dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”

My children will only be young once and summers don’t last forever. This summer I am committed to ‘treasure the doing’ of the ‘little things in life.’ I’m determined to make it a summer to remember.

QUESTION:  What summer plans do you have to create a summer to remember? What memories do you want your children to have of their summers?

CHALLENGE: Take the time to ask your children some of their favorite activities of summers past and plan (or un-plan) activities based on what they seem to really enjoy most.


  1. Laurie says

    Submitted on 5-24-2010 at 01:37pm

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I love your thoughts and ideas, and they are right on parr with mine. Some of our summer favorites are a child getting to be “king of the day” (or queen) and picking the meals and activity, having a campout in the backyard or in the house, making ice shaves and eating them on a blanket outside, movie nights, etc.

    I just heard we are going to be roommates at the retreat. Can’t wait to me you. When do you arrive?

  2. saren says

    Submitted on 5-23-2010 at 09:28pm
    It’s SO important to remember that the best memories often DON’T result from the activities we plan. When our kids get a chance to do some of their own planning and when we just sort of let things happen, beautiful things can happen. Our best summers have been when we’ve had a balance between structure and spontenaeity – when we’ve had a few little 15 minute things every day that the kids are supposed to do (a chore or two, some reading and journal writing here and there) plus a lot of free time to go with the flow.

  3. annyquail says

    Thanks Tiffany! Great article and so true. This summer I am trying to say “No” more often to extra activities, play-dates, etc… Though they can be fun, sometimes it is just too much. I want to try and slow down, stop the rushing around getting from here to there. And simply hang out with my girls. I love the idea of King/Queen for the day. I will totally have to use that one!

  4. says

    I have to have a bit of structure in our blazing hot summer or I go nuts and so do my kids. Playing outside is out of the question unless water is involved. So we have a daily activity (library, swimming, making a craft etc)and my kids have swim team and piano lessons. Other than that there is lots of time for unstructured fun.

  5. says

    This is a good reminder that it’s okay not to “go the way of society” and jam out our schedule–I’m looking forward to some downtime…

  6. says

    This is a brilliantly written article with some many “living in the moment” gems!!! I just shared it on my page, “The Hands Free Revolution” so that many other can be inspired by your beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing your insight and experience. My weekend is looking better already!


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