The Real Secret to Creating the Perfect Summer (it’s Not What You Think)

Every summer when I was growing up, my mom and I would rent out log cabins in North Carolina for a few weeks with her best friend and daughter. It was a special girls’ trip – just the four of us – in the days before iPads and Netflix. We would skip rocks in rivers and put pennies on train tracks. We’d ride horses and hike trails. We would gather around the table to build jigsaw puzzles and drink coffee and laugh at bad movies and create inside jokes that would last long beyond the summer.

My son’s last day of school was May 31st. Since then, my Instagram and Facebook feeds have been flooded with a barrage of picture-perfect posts from friends who are taking their kids on their own exquisite summer vacations.

Hawaii. Europe. Disney. The mountains. Emerald Isle.

The list goes on and on. And with every mindless scroll through my social media, I can feel myself awash in a wave of emotions.

First, I get the sinking feeling of guilt. I feel guilty that I’m not providing the same bombastic summer vacation for my boys as these parents are giving their kids. Then, the guilt makes way for the envy. It swallows me whole – like a snake that hasn’t been fed in weeks sucks down an unsuspecting rat. As a freelancer married to a public school teacher, there is no way we will ever be able to afford such extravagant vacations. And that realization brings me in for the final swath of feeling: hopelessness.

But then I remember what made my North Carolinian summers so special.

It wasn’t the cabins. It wasn’t the rivers. It wasn’t even the horses.

It was the company.

It was the puzzles we did together as a team.The meals we created together and then shared and the talent shows we put on for each other. The anticipation of the pennies flying off the train tracks, and the time spent laughing together.

It was us.

So you know what? I’m done. I’m done feeling guilty, envious and hopeless. My family and I can have incredible summers too, even if we don’t have the luxury of spending them on a cruise ship or in Paris.

Without leaving our hometown, we can do jigsaw puzzles. We can draw pictures. We can run through sprinklers. We can sleep past 8:00 AM and skip naptime. We can call up a friend with a pool and invite ourselves over. We can watch movies and check out new books from the library. We are capable of having the best summer ever – not because of where we are, but because of who we are with.

And as I post photos of my best-ever summer break on Instagram (because I’m addicted), it just might make you envious. So take a break from scrolling and go be with your family. Because your best summer isn’t where I am; it’s right where you are.