I ‘get’ the sentiment; that time flies and childhood is precious but I’m also calling bullshit. Not only is it patronising as hell, it’s absolute nonsense. My eldest girl turned 18 last month. Is that it for us then, no more summers left to spend together? Should I hand back my parenting title and go into mourning? Tell Megan that she can’t come away with us next year as we’ve already used up our summer quota? Get in the bin.
Plus, if we are going down that path, I’d say we get 12 summers, max. I mean, have you ever tried getting your 14-year-old daughter to hang out with you when all she wants to do is see her mates or spend the holidays in her pajamas watching Netflix? It’s exhausting and pretty embarrassing for all involved (‘Stop being a beg Mum’ is the general reaction). By this logic, I only have about three and a half summers left with Lucie. Instead of panicking, using up all of my annual leave to be at home and filling the days with ‘forced fun’, I’d much rather stand back and let her enjoy these lazy summer days in her own way.
18 is not the end – and it’s actually a really long period of time (just call me Sherlock). Granted, Megan is technically an adult now and I’m not denying that things have changed in the past decade or so – of course they have – but in most respects, things are just the same as they always were. We’re still enjoying the simple things when we get the opportunity, such as BBQs, sunbathing on gorgeous beaches and planning summer days out with our extended family. I’m not naive enough to think that Megan’s next holiday won’t be spent necking shots in Ibiza with her friends but I’m also confident that it doesn’t signify the end of our family time together either.
What about the summers that I ‘wasted’ when my girls were younger, when I had to rely on friends and family to look after them when I went out to work five days a week? Or when I was too bogged down with chores and other adult responsibilities to summon up the energy to build more sandcastles? Should I be looking back on those days with regret and sadness? Do I go back in time?? No. It’s a simple part of life and not all of us have the luxury of being able to stay at home soaking up every last precious moment with our kids, whether we like it or not.
Summers these days consist of coming home to find the girls chilling in our garden with friends, a messy kitchen and empty fridge. I still cherish it because this is our reality, our summer, our life together. Just because it doesn’t make for a Insta-worthy picture, it does not make it less valid.
Putting a timeframe on making memories as a family is frankly ridiculous and is only fueling the pressure that many already feel to be a ‘perfect’ parent, especially if they’re not wholly enjoying every single second of it. I’m actually glad that the days I had to deal with a tired, grumpy toddler having a meltdown in the supermarket or throwing up after eating too much ice-cream are over!
I’m fairly sure it’s a given that childhood is important without another condescending, unhelpful post adding more guilt. Stop reminding us that time is slipping away, as if some gloomy, horrific future awaits and instead, let’s celebrate our kids growing up and becoming independent human beings, just like they’re supposed to do. It really isn’t ‘heartbreaking’ (yes, one post I read described their child getting older as ‘heartbreaking’…) or anything to fear.
Heck, I’m 35 and still hang out with my dad, going on trips to the beach and losing hours in the arcades or taking a ride on the steam train. The pictures in our family album didn’t simply stop the moment I became an adult! My girls and I will be making memories together for a long time yet (regardless of the changing seasons). So, whether you’re in the very first summer or the eighteenth, stop worrying about how little time we may or may not have left with our kids, get rid of this fictitious deadline and let’s all just chill out a bit, yeah?