The summer of 2020, we didn't have much of a choice but to slow down. Pools were closed, many families canceled or postponed their vacations, we were only a few months into a global pandemic, and there was so much uncertainty. While this summer certainly looks different, it's OK if you're not jumping right back into doing All The Things.
Vaccines for kids between 5 and 11 are already available—and FDA and CDC recommended. Vaccines for little ones between 6 months and 4 years, are expected to be released very soon. But even with the security of the vaccine, it's perfectly reasonable to still exercise caution when it comes to your kids.
The pandemic has forced us to slow down in almost every facet of our lives; if you don't want to jump back into over-scheduling, and plans, plans, plans all over your family calendar—don't. If you're privileged enough to have paid time off—use it.
Being busy to the point of being stressed is not a badge of honor.
Being tired exhausted and overworked is not a badge of honor.
A jam-packed calendar with a bunch of different colors to represent different activities for everyone in the house that overwhelms you rather than excites you? Not a flex.
Listen, I get it. You're scrolling through social media and you see families who are sharing their summers full of schedules, day trips, scavenger hunts, sports, camps, vacations, weekend getaways, cookouts, pool days, and more camps and more sports.
This isn't a dig on them. They're free to do whatever they want to do that makes them happy. This is more of a permission slip for you to not feel guilty. Because America in particular values "busy." We're conditioned to feel anxious and guilty when we're not working or doing something society deems to be "productive."
But here's the thing about that. Are we really that busy? Or are we making ourselves busy? I bet for many of us, our busyness is self-imposed. Not allowing time to be present can affect your mental health.
And you know what? There are so many things you can enjoy that you don't have to ardently plan for, sign up for, or pay a registration fee for. One of the best things about summer is its simplicity.
Go for an evening walk when the sun is lower in the sky and the grass smells like sweet molasses. Read a series of your favorite books before bed. Have family movie nights—inside or outside. Wade through a creek and catch a few salamanders. Pick a new park in your city to explore every week. Camp out in the backyard. Watch the sunset and try to replicate the colors with crayons or paints. Blow a few dandelions and teach your kids that Queen Anne's Lace is both a weed and a wildflower.
We're social beings (even those of us who are introverts, hello) and human interaction is a wonderful, necessary part of life.
Busyness is not.
It's been a long, arduous time for all of us. There's no better time of year to be gentle with yourself and enjoy the joy of the present moment. Like George Gershwin wrote: "Summertime, and the livin' is easy."
A version of this post was published June 28, 2021. It has been updated.