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.
Welcome Back to Finish the Sentence Friday!
Mefrom Mommy, for Real
Kristi from Finding Ninee
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Kate from Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?
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Next week’s sentence is: “I deserve a medal for the time I….”
God do I know that feeling well. As much of a great time going away or somewhere with my kids can be, there are still those moments when I think, “Why did we do this again?” By the way, I took the same tack with showing some pictures highlighting the summer, too!!
Your pictures were fabulous!
Ah, the Pepsi Float days. It really does stand as a statement of what we hope for our children’s experiences and what actually happens. But the good news is, there is that word HOPE. We anticipate, plan for, and expect to have happen. Sometimes it does; sometimes not. But there again, that word, HOPE. rears its ugly head – or maybe not so much an ugly head. Because time sort of heals the “bad experiences” and we trudge forward with the great memories of the “good times” and what we anticipate for the next “memory experience.” Life IS good.
Yes- the key word is definitely hope, isn’t it?
Is that last one on Trail Ridge Road??? I, too, often wonder whether my memories are rose-colored. And I know that they are. But maybe, just maybe, they’re that way because they’re supposed to be? I mean think about the calm after an upset. It’s like we’re all of a sudden embarrassed about the upset. No matter how real, or important, it was at the time? It’s muted. I think it’s the opposite for the perfect moments. But instead of muted, they’re magnified. Maybe that’s by design. Or maybe we’re just um. Not going there.
Beautiful post. Awesome words. Adore you. Always.
Yes! It is on Trail Ridge Road! I really like your comment, and I agree- I think it is by design, and I love “instead of muted, they’re magnified.” Perfect.
I love the pictures, Stephanie! I remember taking vacations with Abby when I was on maternity leave, and they were not at all fun. But last winter, with the kids 6 and 3.5, we took a vacation to Mexico with the kids, and it was great! I think the ‘schlepping a toddler’ is what kills it. I’m looking forward to family outings and vacations as the kids get older.
As for the Pepsi Float moments, I worry that because my kids see so much and there is so much iPad, TV, etc. stimulation, that the simple moments we treasure from childhood won’t thrill them as much.
Good point about it being harder to “wow” our kids with simple moments- so true.
Ah yes! So many ideas I have for activities with my kids sound really good in my mind. But in actual fact? Heck of a lot of work – and not too sure if they are actually enjoying it. And agreed re: the wonders of rose-tinting.
The photos are lovely – so it certainly LOOKS like you had some wonderful trips 🙂 And the wonderful moments on them – are the ones to remember. Not the implosions, rushes to the washroom etc…
You are right about that- we’ll cling to the “picture” moments- not the disasters! Thanks Louise!
First of all, beautiful pictures! Secondly, as you know, in my post I lamented our lack of trips and “big stuff”, but I also know that is why our summer was so calm. Trips are stressful. Even though my girls are a little older, there’s still packing, traveling, the finances of it. They certainly make for some good memories, but I agree that things are often better when we look back than they are when we are living it.
That is such a good point- a lack of “big” experiences makes for a more evenly enjoyable summer, I think! Fewer high-highs, maybe, but skipping those horrible lows is worth a lot!
But just think, if you can give your kids some wonderful memories to get nostalgic about, that’s a really, really good thing 🙂
For sure- someone below just made a great point about her daughter’s memories, and how they too are rose-tinted. So interesting!
I think this is an honest post about your summer. And I think next summer you will look back and not look at how the kids upset your plans but what a fun time you had. Kind of like childbirth 🙂
It is TOTALLY like childbirth. So true.
Oh dear. Your “no the Celtic fall festival would not be fun” comment made me laugh out loud. You are so right about expectations. We have taken our two youngest to Disney each February while I ran the 1/2 marathon and we all ran the Family 5K. My children complained and fought the entire time last year. My husband said never again. You’ve got to know when it just isn’t worth the effort or the money. Hang in there mom.
Thanks Jamie- according to your post, there is hope for fun trips with kids someday! 😉
Yep, been there, done that, as you know. We have all these great ideas for things we *think* our son will enjoy but for some reason, our toddler has other ideas. I can’t even really say we do it for ourselves, because dragging a toddler through an experience they are not enjoying is no fun for anyone. I guess we do it because we *want* to enjoy these experiences some day, so we want our son to be familiar with them and get used to the idea that we take family vacations. And I have to say, although lots of the Alaskan trip was challenging, he *is* very good at riding in the car relatively patiently and quietly. I have to attribute that to the fact that we’ve been doing it since he was a baby, and he’s gotten accustomed to it.
Thanks for the inspiration, my friend. 🙂
Yes. Yes. Yes.
It’s funny that you wrote this because last night, I was thinking the exact same thing. I was watching my son during hockey camp and he looked so tired and uninterested. I was so excited to watch him play because..well…it’s the Canadian thing to do. But he’s not into it and it kind of kills me inside.
I hope that we are able to let go of our shortcomings and look at all the things that went right and that we are blessed to have experienced.
pass the glasses Clark
“Pass the glasses, Clark,” made me smile big and laugh. Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂
“I was an ingrate even then!” Bahahahahahahaha!!
It’s kinda like child birth; selective memories. I think motherhood is kind to us in that we fondly remember most things. Motherhood, she’s a savvy bitch.
I may print out your comment and put it on my fridge. Well put, my friend. Well put. You took that whole post and succinctly tied it up in one adorably catchy line! 😀
Good times. 😉
Seriously, this is a great reflection and reminds me a bit of my thoughts about taking too many pictures. I especially loved this: “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.”
Um, yeah. Me too.
Thanks for that, Nina. I so enjoyed your post about taking pictures- it obviously resonated with me!
“…it is more comfortable to look back on experiences than it is to be actually living them.”
What a cool insight. Now many may dispute what it means, for me any insight (or slightly different perspective on our lives) is useful and valuable.
Insights and our subsequent appreciation of them tell us who are… even better, they tell us who we become because no one stays the same.
Your insight here, strikes me a lot like believing in Santa Claus… as kids we simply believe, then we learn that it is a story and we go through a period of thinking that we can’t enjoy it anymore and then we learn that we can enjoy others (children…*mostly*) enjoyment. thinking that the ‘lesser joy’ of realizing how much work trips can be should not diminish the enjoyment of looking back on the experience…with the ‘editing’ we all do…to enjoy the fun parts of the memory (as opposed to say…the throwing-up parts of the memory).
Love the FTSF…
Thanks Clark! I think you often make my posts better than they originally began with your OWN insights! 🙂
I absolutely love the way you’ve constructed this, how you move from one observant thought to the next one building on the previous one’s foundation with such ease. This is such an astute observation, that it kinda knocked my socks off: “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. ” Then I went “Whoa” and “totes” because I was kind of speechless. I totally TOTALLY identify with every word here. I’ve often asked myself why can’t I enjoy a memory in the making, why is it always more enjoyable in retrospect and you’ve addressed this so perfectly, my endless wise friend!
Will you remind me to come back and read this comment from you when I am having a low morale day? You made me feel SO happy with that. Big hugs for that comment. 🙂
Yes, so much yes! What is funny to me though is to hear my 14 year old daughter tell about trips from when she was younger – trips she whined, bickered, and griped throughout. She has her own glasses for these trips, remembering how fun they were, suggesting we do this or that again with her younger sister and cousin. Honestly it is extremely reassuring that she doesn’t remember I was doing my own whining and nagging. It almost makes me want to take a trip.
Well, THAT is something to look forward to- my kids’ own sunglasses moments! How fascinating! That really makes me feel better- thank you!
I’ve heard that creating memories is one of the ways humans manufacture their own happiness – memories of an experience bring much more satisfaction than getting something new, like a car (the nerd in me is reminded of a documentary I watched called “Happy” which discusses that very phenomenon). So while memories aren’t perfect, our flawed recollections serve a purpose: happiness.
I loved reading this. It’s equal parts real and beautiful.
Thank you so much for that, Natalie. Such a thoughtful comment- I really appreciate it! You are absolutely right, I think.
God, I love this so much. And you have been on my mind all day. I just cannot get over what is happening in CO. So many of my favorite memories are from those places that are now under water. And like you, I tend to be wistful and nostalgic about everything.-Ashley
Thank you so much, Ashley. Yeah, a lot of our favorite memory places, namely Estes Park, which is totally OUR place that we go, are underwater. So unbelievably sad. We are dry and safe where we live.
I love this post. You have captured the complex mix of it all. Honestly, I don’t think you sound cynical or full of melancholy. I think you sound realistic. Summer vacations with kids are trying, disappointing, lovely and beautiful! I remember the beautiful pictures from your “being present” pictures. And here too!
Thanks for that, Rachel. I appreciate it!
I totally get this – and I would like to add it doesn’t necessarily get better once you’re out of the toddler-haranguing phase. They can stand perfectly still and give you the teenage eye-roll too.
Trust me, JUST as annoying.
Oh, I believe it! Thanks for the heads-up… I think? 🙂
This was so great to read! I love posts that are so honest it’s almost something you’d only admit to your BFF, ya know? It’s SO true that I rate and choose our outings now with an inner *how bad could this possibly suck* criteria. And yes, we romanticize those vacays fer sher! And I think our kids do too. They don’t remember how much they whined about the heat, or how long they had to wait before we left, or all the other trivial things that were the end of the world at the time. But I do, I do, I do love that we have those one or two special moments in those amazing places that are our memories forever. No one can take that away from us as a family. Yes, the tantrums and what-have-you were a total beating at the time, but, just like your family, we’ll go again and again. 🙂
Oh, thanks so much for that! I really appreciate the validation, and I’m glad you get it!
“Clearly, our judgement is questionable.” I sure am thankful our minds black out most of the pains of vacationing with children, just like they did the pains of birthing them.