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Julie VanSpall – Home Front

Make the most of 18 summers

Voices July 9, 2018

“We can’t always wait for tomorrow, or next summer,” so Julie VanSpall intends to make the most of this season before it’s too late.  (Julie VanSpall photo)

For a while, the calendar has been telling me that summer is here, but with school finished, it now feels official! The slate of Summer 2018 is virtually blank and waiting to be chalked up with family memories.

Typically, I know that I expect more out of summer than I should. I tend to save deep-cleaning and appointments for this time of year when schedules relax. I always hope to read more books, spend time on professional development, and organize my plans for school. I also want to take it easy by visiting people and going on outings with my kids. Due to my lengthy to-do list – and the fact that there still are only 24 hours in a day – before I know it, September arrives and I don’t feel as though I’ve made the most of summer.

In an article written by Heather Duckworth of Love, Faith & Chaos, she states,They say you only have 18 summers with your kids.” Of course, logistically, I know this to be true. Somehow, though, I tend to feel as though my family will forever exist, just as it is. We are a unit and life simply feels right when everyone is safe under one roof at night. If I devote some of my summer days to jobs that can wait, it won’t matter because there’s always “tomorrow” or “next summer,” right?

Not really.

I still remember how anxious I felt when, at 38 weeks pregnant with my first child, it sank in that we weren’t about to have merely a baby, we were about to have a family. Of course, I knew that the “baby” we were preparing for would turn into a child with his or her own schedule and his or her own friends; yet, suddenly, it hit me that rather than being known as “Stephen and Julie’s place” our home was soon to be known as “(insert child’s name here)’s house.” I was very excited about having a baby, but was I ready for a family? I knew that eventually, we would live in “Stephen and Julie’s place” again, but 18 years sounded like forever.

It wasn’t forever, though. Last year was our eldest’s 18th summer. Sure, there were moments along the way when the hours felt long, but the years definitely flew by.  Eighteen years were filled with different seasons, lessons and games, family trips and parties, traditions and fun outings. They were also filled with laundry, cooking, cleaning, gardening, homework, and baby books. In spite of all of our wonderful memories, I still experience regret that I’ve spent too much time worrying about chores and not enough time living in the moment.

Fortunately, even though we thought that last year might very well be our last “family summer,” this year, we are blessed with another chance. Our son is working and we don’t see much of him on a daily basis, yet we are going to enjoy another family vacation before school starts.

Work and chores still need to happen, but I need a better daily agenda to make the most of this season. Rather than squeezing fun in around jobs, with leftover time and little energy, I need to plan simple things like doing puzzles, reading together, singing songs around the piano, or playing badminton in the backyard, fitting the jobs in while kids are sleeping in or hanging out with friends. Furthermore, the kids are old enough to share in some of the work, adding even the mundane to our memory banks.

Rather than finding myself with a pit in my stomach on Labour Day, I am making an unofficial summer bucket list. So far, we have gone geocaching a few times, bought ice cream, read books, and watched movies.

We can’t always wait for tomorrow, or next summer, because we are living on “borrowed time” with our son, and our daughters are in their 17th, 15th, and 11th summers, respectively. Before I know it, Stephen and Julie’s place will be quiet once again. Time alone will be the norm, and moments when all four kids are with us simultaneously will be the exceptions.

Summer 2018 is only coming once. Let the memories begin!