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?

I Shopped WalMart

I haven’t set foot inside our local Walmart since my uber awesome sister-in-law helped me escape the doldrums of “life with a newborn” (back when he was nursing every 2 hours and I didn’t have a pump). Although it was at WallyWorld, I welcomed (with massive amounts of anxiety thrown in) my first bit of time away from the little man. Let’s consider that my annual trek.

Except, this holiday season I purchased Walmart goods. Sure, I didn’t go TO Walmart, but I shopped their online wares, which in my mind is still patronizing the place. Needless to say, I’m simply not a fan of the place these days. Their unsavory business practices and maltreatment of workers leave a nasty taste in my mouth, and I’m not in the habit of tasting yuckiness.

Anyhoo, why did I “shop” through walmart.com? After lots of searching, I found that their clothes were the cheapest option I had. See, we’re giving to a couple of kids off of our “giving tree” at school, and their wishes consisted of clothes. I went elsewhere for the (admittedly overboard) toys and activities that we gave. And since I’m sure you’re wondering (or not, hee hee), there was a girl and a younger boy (not sure if they’re in the same families or not) and I got everything for the girl, the clothes for the boy, and Dave picked out toys for the boy. She got a coat, boots, hat/mitten set, PJs, and since it said her interests were “jewelry” I got some costume jewelry and a set that she can use to make her own jewelry. The boy got snow pants, boots, hat/mitten set, PJs, some Batman/Joker toys, and a comic book. Oh, and they each got new crayons and a coloring book, and, of course, a container of Play-Doh — because what parent doesn’t want their kids grinding that into the carpet? Mwahaha.

Yeah, we overdid it. Not to say our son isn’t making out well this year — but he’s not even one yet, so mass amounts of toys aren’t necessary.

But, it made me think — is it okay to go against one’s principles when you’re helping someone in need (buying cheap-o stuff, be it toy or foodstuff)? Or should those in need get items that are just as…um…”at a premium”?

We also gave two full-sized meals to needy families this year. I went to Aldi and grabbed two of everything (except the protein) — 2 boxes of stuffing, 2 boxes of mashed potatoes (ick), 4 cans of veggies, 2 cans of fruit (in fruit juice!), 2 packages of gravy, 2 boxes of pudding and 2 graham cracker pie crusts (dessert!). Oh, and a couple of boxes of macaroni and cheese, considering not everyday is a holiday, and you still need to eat. Now, not that we’re elitist, but we wouldn’t eat any of this stuff if we were purchasing food for our house. If someone OFFERED us a meal of this, we wouldn’t say anything and would eat it happily (but probably feel yucky later — not figuratively, it’s really true what they say about feeling better when you eat better quality food), but our daily choice veers in the all-natural/organic arena. It’s just how we live.

I should probably feel happy that I was able to give at all, but it’s hard not to feel a little guilty. Heck, even when my husband’s work was sponsoring a “Stuff the Bus” campaign for toys, I stopped by with two toys — from the cheap toy section at Kmart. Mind you, they seemed like wicked fun toys (and I would know!), but does it matter that they were $5 each?

So, what do you think? Is it better to give at all? Or does equality factor into the equation?

Side note: I found ORGANIC BUTTER at Aldi yesterday!! I nearly fell over!!! (And HAD to text a picture of it to the hubs. Confused onlookers be damned.) Last time, I found Kerrygold Irish cheese (grassfed, INCREDIBLE cheese!!!) and this time organic butter! I am growing more and more impressed by the place.