The Chosen Joyful Journey: When Summer Seems Fun for Everyone But Mom


summer memories from mom of older children

Isn’t summer grand? Isn’t it glorious to be able to lounge around poolside, creamy rum drink in hand, watching our marvelous children splash and cavort merrily whilst the sun kisses our lightly tanned skin—not too tan, though, we aren’t too mom-busy to care for our own, ever so slightly aging, delicate skin? I mean, we were diligent to caress the sunblock onto the precious skin of our children the very moment the summer sun dawned and a poolside adventure was formulated, so naturally, we took the time to care for our own almost simultaneously. 

Wait, what planet am I on? Is anyone actually living in this summer dreamscape? Instagram seems to say that, indeed, there are sun-kissed, toned-ab moms living that reality. But, in the non-scripted, non-camera ready world in which most of us truly reside, let’s be honest, it’s more like we live on Planet Summer Circus Freak Show.

We are on a boardwalk roller coaster ride of summer sports practices, camps, teacher-mandated summer tutoring (even though said teachers are in their little island paradises while we are doing what they assigned us so we don’t feel like failures as parents not supporting our blossoming academicians when school resumes a million days from now), “fun” summer work parties where the cheese plate you signed up to bring has suddenly become “and could you also grab some extra beer, chips and dip, and a four-layer dip?”, the summer concert series we’ve all been waiting to attend as a family that requires you to jump through the circus hoops to get all the stars aligned for us to actually arrive before the singer you’ve been dying to see sings his big hit song (forget about the opening act that you missed because the dog threw up as you were leaving the house). And, oh yeah, let’s not forget the camping trip.

All of this while being strapped into the roller coaster seat of summer life, in which the black vinyl is so hot our legs are burning and our thighs are sweating and touching the person’s slammed in next to us (because, of course, we haven’t had time to exercise and work off that winter leg layer that we obsessively crane our necks to see in the mirror as we try on last year’s shorts that we dug out of the bottom of our sweater drawer).

Why does it seem like this summer roller coaster is fun for everyone except mom?

Why does no one see that the cream in our rum drinks has coagulated in the heat? Our lovely darlings are sitting right next to us, drinking their umbrella-adorned concoctions, not noticing that we are gagging on it? 

And, at this time, I shall add the perspective of a mom-of-adults at the start of summer on Planet Summer Circus Freak Show. Adult child number one, freshly diploma-granted college graduate and bride-to-be, has just driven away with her mattress and my pots and pans to take to her new apartment because she started her new career one day after graduating and is “starving and sleeping on the floor.” It’s an interesting phenomenon to watch your first born drive away with her childhood mattress hanging precariously out the back of the very reliable, highly safety-rated little SUV hatchback that you handed down to her at age sixteen. That unexpected roller coaster dip made my tummy feel funny after that drop from the top.

And adult child number two has just finished his freshman year of college and has brought his volcano of laundry into our not-big house, propping his hockey bag atop the mountain, the contents of which haven’t been laundered in seven months because “the washing machines in the dorms cost money, Mom.” As he sits in the breakfast nook eating a pan of spaghetti he’s prepared for himself that morning (and I do mean, the ENTIRE PAN of spaghetti bolognese; he’s an athlete and 19-year-old man-person trying to “bulk up for fall hockey try-outs,” after all), I meander from the kitchen sink, where the three remaining pots that my daughter didn’t snag (only because they weren’t clean) are caked with drying tomato sauce and starchy noodles. I traverse through the living room littered with sheets and blankets because adult child number one doesn’t have a mattress to sleep on, and adult child number two can’t find his bed through the laundry mountain, so they had a camp out on the sectional the previous night.

 I find myself in front of the living room window, staring out at the detritus-covered pool. Air mattresses are deflated in a corner, towels that didn’t get picked up last week when the nieces and nephews came over to swim are mildewing in a pile. There are swim trunks sucked into the pool cleaner. I take a breath.

I remember the day, the exact moment, my boy learned to swim. I was so excited for him as his little tanned face popped out of the water, more proud of himself than I’d ever witnessed. He ran over to me as I sat on the edge of the steps (sans rum drink), splashing and jumping and bringing a hurricane of water raining down onto my freshly washed and curled hair (haha, who are we kidding?). He threw his dripping wet arms around my neck, “I can swim, Mommy. I can swim!” I embraced him back, soaking in the joy. I was so happy for his feeling of self-empowerment,  but I was also overwhelmed by the knowledge that, for the rest of my life, water would not be a deathtrap for my offspring. My kids were swimmers. This boy could save his own life now if he fell into a pool or ever found himself in a situation where he had to keep his head above the waves.

As I stood at the window that day, I heard the shrieks of laughter, the counting of a million Marco Polo games and “fish out of water” calls, the water-logged voices asking me, “Will you throw this in for us,” one hundred thousand times as they raced to see who could retrieve said thrown item from the mysterious depths first. I could feel the cool splashes on my skin as I sat sweltering, keeping guard of their little lives in the 110 degree heat of another Northern California summer. 

On what planet do kids get to grow up and move their mattresses out? On what planet does a pool get used so little by the munchkins that live there that no one notices the pool vacuum is jammed with skim trunks? 

But, moms, this is what I’ve learned, little by little, moment by moment, as my kids have taught me to travel the road with them. Their reality and my reality are realities that co-exist. The world isn’t a perfect Instagram moment. Our planets sometimes don’t align into a perfect scenario. But our planet is OUR planet, and our version of perfection is our own. We can create our own perfect world where the cream in our rum drinks may curdle because we can’t control the sun, so we choose to drink straight tequila because we do get to choose what we put in our glass. 

Momming is super stressful. It truly is a roller coaster ride rather than a leisurely day posting up poolside, fruity blended drink in hand. But, as I stand at that window remembering, I wonder what I would have missed if I’d spend my days hidden in a cabana looking tidy while my kids obediently sat at the edge of the pool dangling their toes in their perfect little swimsuits. That’s not real life, and we get to make choices as moms to live our own real life.  

We are moms! We know how to not just go with the flow that is presented to us, we know how to create waves of joy with whatever river we are in. We have so much power, there is no rapid we can’t manage! All we have to do is find a really cute, unicorn-shaped floatie! That’s one of our superpowers. Every river has murky stagnant pools here and there, but we CHOOSE to ride the ride and not stay trapped in the muck. That’s the fun of mom life, and that’s the path we create for ourselves. Yeah, life can be a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. 

Adult child number one driving away with childhood mattress? I can choose to share in the joy of helping her make her new bed in her new place, reminiscing about how my mom came and helped me clean the dirty corners of the bathroom where unknown somethings from the last ten tenants have collected, or I can choose to watch through the window as she drives away. I choose to embrace that adventure. Adult child number two asking who’s paying for his 100-billion-dollar pre-workout mix now that he’s an adult but broke without a job? I’m willingly jumping into the rapids of letting him pay for this first thing himself. But, sweet Sonshine, I’ll happily pay for the laundry soap when you wash your hockey gear, RIGHT NOW. Because this is my planet, and in my world, we ain’t got room for the hockey stink. And, be a darling, on your way to the laundry room, can you bring me a Perrier? Thanks, Love.


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Jennifer is the co-founder of Victory Garden Kids, a tutoring center and confidence building organization for students of any age. She and her husband, Jeff, opened Victory Garden Kids to help students embrace their power as learners after Jennifer watched student after student struggle with learning due to confidence issues during her 20+ years as a veteran teacher. Jennifer and Jeff have been married for 26 years and have two incredible adult children. Ben is a freshman at the University of Oregon and Hannah has graduated from UCLA and is getting married in the fall. From her own family and in the classroom, Jennifer has gathered experiences and ideas about the entire spectrum of raising and nurturing kids-no matter their age, and Jennifer loves to share her perspective. Jennifer and Jeff are currently completing their first book, Love Grows Here: A 28-Day Journey to Growing Victorious Kids!. Jennifer and her daughter are also in the process of launching their new generational perspectives podcast, GenerationSHE. Learn more at


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