You only get 18 summers.

A few months ago, I found myself reading lots of viral articles about how to savor the season with my kids—and wanted in.

Reflecting on the simple pleasures of my own childhood summers, I fell in love with the idea that June, July and August could be a microcosm of the carefree childhood—a throwback to the good old days when kids roamed wild and free. It was the antidote to helicopter parenting. It was a three-month-long-family vacation.

The ideal summer would be a time for my kids to be free, explore, rest, soak up the sun, and lick popsicles until they were blue in the face (and red in the fingers).

This simple summer sounded incredible.

Indeed, I think I fell in love with the idea that summer could be a low-stress time to make up for rigors of “regular” life. Experts say kids need less screentime—more play time. They need less structure—more freedom. They need less hovering—more creativity. What better time than summer to achieve all of that?

I wanted the dream summer.

Except—I have a 1, 3 and 5 year old. Between arranging naptimes, breaking up skirmishes and cleaning the kitchen for the 10th time that day, nothing in our lives is too carefree these days.

Except—I have a demanding career. Having a summer by the pool honestly sounds AMAZING to me, but my budget (and honestly, my personal goals) require that I spend most of the work week cranking away at my job.

Except—My pale-skinned babes can’t spend too much time in the sun without turning red. And diapers have a way of attracting serious sand. And my kids do better when they’re enrolled in at least some activities, rather than just going nuts at my house all day long, all summer long.

So after trying to concoct a magical summer plan, and failing to live up to this mythical ideal, I’ve embraced the good enough summerthat we had. It wasn’t perfect. It wasnt even magical—but it is more than good enough for my three kids.

We didn’t go away on an extended vacation—but we did take a few day trips to grandma and grandpa’s pool. (And grandpa is king of ALL THE ICE CREAM ?.)

We didn’t frolic for days through the backyard sprinkler (we don’t actually have a backyard)—but we did run through a fountain and the kids thought that was pretty cool.

We didn’t unplug from screen time—in fact, my kids some days got more screen time than I care to admit—but we did watch some sweet family movies together on the couch. It’s not ideal, but it’s our truth, and I suspect a lot of other mamas’ truths, too.

We didn’t stay up late to watch shooting stars—but did talk about the solar eclipse and watch YouTube videos about the earth, sun and stars.

We didn’t invent childhood magic with our bare hands (here’s looking at you cardboard boxes and popsicle sticks)—but we did enjoy lots of coloring pages and improvised arts + crafts.

We didn’t eat seasonal produce or barbecue outside as much as I had hoped—but we did eat lots of watermelon, letting it drop all over our shirts (and, of course, the kitchen floor.)

We didn’t have a fun beach getaway—but we did spend some extra time swimming at the YMCA and had a grand ol’ time.

We didn’t luxuriate in a summer without schedules—but my kids went to morning camp and they made a lot of new friends.

We didn’t rock a summer bucket list—but we did swim, play, read, walk, snuggle and rest.

We didn’t have a dreamy, carefree, getaway, free range summer—but we learned and played and grew and loved and that is more than good enough.