At the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration last April, Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World Resort, spoke on the opening day of the event about the importance of treasuring each moment we have with our children. I have had the honor of hearing her speak on more than one occasion, and I am always moved to goosebumps as I listen to her talk about the joyful time shared between parents and their children at Walt Disney World. This desire to spend more time devoted wholly to my kids has driven me to spend more than my fair share of time and money in Disney Parks because I know every second spent there is a chance to embrace childhood, my children’s, and my own relived through their smiles and laughter.
During this particular speech, Meg alluded to the idea of 18 Summers, all we have with our children before we send them off into the world. Just 18 Summers.
As she spoke, I could feel the collective chest tightening in the room. One friend near me began to tear up thinking of her toddlers. My daughter had just turned 8, my son about to turn 6. I began to do the math…
Disney execs surely aren’t the only people keenly aware of this concept of just 18 Summers, and the weeks following in the blogosphere shone a light on this fear, this fear that time will pass too quickly, that opportunities with our children will be missed. My world kept turning and summer arrived whether or not I was ready, and instead of heading off to school every day on the bus, my children spent most weeks at day camp while I worked. Camp from 9:00 to 3:00 every day is the trade off we have made as a family so that we can take vacations without me having to submit a request to a boss, we can live in the neighborhood that we feel is right for our kids, we can put money aside for everything from braces to college, and we can allow the kids to wake up sleepily on their own each morning rather than rushing them off to before care and picking them up from after care. It has meant many evenings of work and yes, often some time on the weekends as well. It is the arrangement that works for us, this life of a work-from-home business owner, but it means giving up the summers with the kids that I always anticipated when I was a teacher.
And apparently there were only ever going to be 18 Summers. Damn.
Here is what I have to say to those 18 Summers. I would like to introduce you to the other seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring. May I also please point out these other guys on the calendar – weekends.
Today is the first day of school, and yes there is that little voice in my head saying, “We should have spent more time at the pool!!”, but there is a louder voice saying, “I can’t wait till the leaves turn so that we can go hiking again!” We made a decision very early on in our parenting that we would be the captains of our family ship rather than allowing norms to direct the path we would take, and the experiences that decision has brought to us have been priceless. I’m not above sending a note to my children’s teachers letting them know that my kids will be missing a day or two of school to accompany me on a work trip where they will not only see the professional side of their mother, but will also see more of the world they are studying. I believe that day trips are a gift from God, that there is much to be experienced right outside our own doors, and that vacations can be a week every August for 18 Summers or a a Tuesday through Thursday in the middle of January just once or for a lifetime.
Today I am thankful for another beautiful and eventful summer with my family, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Wyoming, a first year of swim team adventure, a few days totally off the grid at the lake, picnics, swimming, fresh air, fun.
But I am also ready to enjoy…
And no matter the season, I am going to try to steal every moment of happiness with my kids that I can.