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Why I Kicked the Bucket (List)

Coming off of the 4th of July holiday, Summer is officially in full swing.

Long, hot days spent outdoors and cool evenings of catching fireflies or sitting around the campfire define this season for our family.
Ice cream is never in short supply in our home–even with a freezer that is smaller than a breadbox.
Swimming pools and swimming holes are a sweet respite on these dog days.
Bicycling together to explore what’s a little further down the road is one of our favorite pastimes.

Truly, these are some of the very best of days.

Now there’s this little thing called Pinterest, maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s an online pinboard, of sorts, that’s a virtual Mecca of organization and ideas for those with either Type A or Creative Project Focused tendencies.

Or it’s like crack for those of us who suffer from are blessed with both.

So Pinterest comes along and all of a sudden this great idea of a “Summer Bucket List” starts floating around. The general idea is to make a list of things that you want to make sure that you do with your family over the course of the summer. The purpose is to provide a focus to the activities that you choose to do together during the precious few days of summertime, before the air becomes crisp and the leaves begin to change. Clever enough idea, right?

Maybe you even have a Summer Bucket List of your own that your family is working through. Perhaps yours is even an actual cute little bucket that you keep on the kitchen table to remind you of the things that you’d still like to accomplish together this season.
If this is you, let me tell you that right now I am giving you a virtual high-five and am in awe of your steadfastness and your self-control. Seriously.

Because here’s what the process of creating and working through a Summer Bucket List looked like for me:

  1. Write a list of approximately 25 things that I’d like to do with my kids throughout the summer.
  2. Decide that we’ll begin immediately, so we start with one item on the list.
  3. Well, that was fun. Let’s try something else. So we do another item on the list the same day.
  4. Cool! What else is on the list? Let’s do something else! So we do.
  5. At the end of Day 1 I feel super accomplished that we’d crossed 3 items off our Summer Bucket List. I wonder how many we can knock out tomorrow?
  6. Day 2, I see that eat ice cream, ride bicycles and play hopscotch have not been crossed off yet. So we do all three and I feel ultra-accomplished that we’ve knocked the list down to only 19 things left to do and we’re only two days into this. Sweet!
  7. Day 3, I want to cross a few more items off the list, but the kids want to have a low-key day of playing Legos and trains and My Little Ponies and reading stories at home. What?! We can do that any day. Don’t you see that we have a Summer Bucket List here? Time’s a wastin’, folks! There’s fun to be had!

And that’s when I realize that the Summer Bucket List is just not a great idea for me. So I scrap the list and we return to our regularly scheduled, unscheduled lives.

I love lists!
I love the sense of accomplishment that I feel in crossing an item off of my list!
I’m one of those people that adds tasks that I’ve already to my list just so that I can cross the item off.

However, the time spent with my family is not one of those things that I wish to cross off my list.
When I realized that my focus on accomplishing a task (AKA, doing something that was supposed to be fun that was on my list) instead of being present where I was and enjoying the time spent together, that’s when I knew that something had to change.

So, I kicked the bucket list.

I think that I remember a lot of the things on it. And we’ll probably still do them all at some point this summer. If we don’t, that’s okay. We’ll have accomplished the primary goal, either way. The primary goal is not to see how much we can cram into one summer. My primary goal is to spend meaningful time with each of my children, and with them together as a whole crew. My primary goal is to enjoy the precious time that I get to spend with my husband during his busy season at work, and to cherish our time spent together as an entire family.

That’s where the memories will come from. Not from seeing how quickly we can complete an arbitrary list of fun–to the point where it is no longer any fun.

We cannot plan how and when memories will be made. Memories are created along the way.

Even, and especially, in the low-key days of simply playing Legos and trains and My Little Ponies, and while snuggled together sharing a story.