Shedding That End-of-Summer Guilt

As a person who is aaaaaall about feeling life changes pretty deeply, the end of summertime is higher on my list of anxiety triggers than, say, the holidays. It’s pretty much tops. While I *generally* enjoy the change of the four actual seasons, the fact that there aren’t huge shifts in schedules, routines, moods, and overall stressors ties into those spring to summer to fall to winter changes is probably one of the biggest appeals. (That and the sensory stuff that accompany new seasons are delightful.)

The fact that I’m an educator is equal parts the joy and guilt of being able to be home with my kids during the summer, and still more joy, guilt, and, yes, anxiety about going back in the fall. Not only do we have the list of things to get in order for the start of school as far as my own work and the kids’ routines, but there’s a looming shadow that will take a mindset shift to slowly emerge from.

What is that unnecessarily stressful shadow?

That list of all the undone summer things.

Those promises that went unfulfilled (whether to oneself or a loved one). Those priorities that weren’t quite high enough on the priority list. Those projects that were unachievable. An overall admission that some (most) days, survival was simply good enough and it wasn’t a very eventful, memorable, or terribly special summer.

And it’s okay. It’s ALL okay. Every summer – and, for that matter, every holiday, birthday, special occasion, and…well, even those less-than-special occasions – doesn’t need to be tops.

I repeat: EVERY LITTLE THING DOES NOT NEED TO BE THE BEST THING EVER.

We are all held to insane standards today. In turn, this is one of the reasons, I feel, that kids’ complex problem solving skills and “think for yourselfness” have turned to mush. And, to an extent, as parents so have we. We’re all blobs walking around, not truly engaging in life, putting on airs and armors while making choices without fully knowing why or for whom we’re making them.

Sorry. I know that’s a lot to say and think about. And it TOTALLY doesn’t relate to all of us. I know we’re all trying our best in our own ways. Just observations to add.

And I’m not saying to change what you do or how you are. God, no. There still needs to be an occasional, pulled-out-of-nowhere moment of pure magic – it’s one of our rights as parents (oh, and allowing the grandparents or others who adore your kids to make their own magic ONCE IN AWHILE is a must, as well). And, honestly, it’s fun.

But perhaps we shouldn’t set the bar so high that inflated expectations are the norm. Kids get spoiled and dependent. Stacks of toys take over and become less important in their sheer mass. We adults get more and more stressed. And a vicious cycle continues.

Instead, let’s breathe and do what we can and want to do; not what we feel we should. And when it doesn’t happen, don’t stress. (I’m telling myself as much as doling out the advice, by the way!)

So, while you’re taking pictures of that amazing birthday cake for Instagram, ask yourself why you made it. Was it for the glimmer in your child’s eyes? Or was it to maintain an unrealistic standard (whether because your child has come to expect it…or you’ve come to expect it…or to impress your friends/followers)? Or, still, was it because you truly enjoyed putting the work in to help celebrate your special little person?

The same goes when you plan your next vacation. Or shop for Christmas. Or decorate a bedroom. Or take your back-to-school pictures. Or even when you make your next to-do list of projects.

My motto right now is that summer’s technically not over until September 20th, and weekends still exist, so if we can fit in a project or a quick trip to a lake to satiate that nagging “we didn’t do enough” feeling, we’ll grab the chance.

And, if not, I’m learning to be okay with the fact that every summer just won’t be a perfect one. There’s no such thing as perfection, and that’s a great thing to remember. Plus, the end of one time is the start of another.

Oh, and I’ll bet that if you ask your child what their favorite part (or parts) of the summer were, they’ll come up with something unexpected and totally sweet. Kids don’t look to criticize. And their memories are very much their own – usually seeing their parents as absolutely amazing despite our own worries that we’re not doing enough.

Do you ever suffer from the disappointment that you didn’t do enough (whether from self-criticism or feeling less than worthy by comparison)? Did you do all you had hoped to do this summer?

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