“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault
What public health officials consider safe and acceptable summer activities changes weekly. And the current travel restrictions are likely to remain in place for many weeks to come. So families face unique difficulties and uncertainty about planning their summer adventures. But, while the list of things we can’t do is long, summer has not been cancelled.
Call me crazy, but I think the pandemic has been freeing. Prior to Covid, I was busy keeping the family fed, clean, exercised and socialized while balancing work and some semblance of self-fulfillment. It was a lot of work.
And when Dr. Bonnie Henry first put restrictions in place, it felt like everything just came to a halt, including our busy personal lives.
Like most people, navigating the ever-changing information created uncertainty and worry. The world began changing before our eyes and so did our family life. I was laid off from work and worried about finances.
Then schools closed and I became a reluctant homeschool teacher and stay-at-home mom. We had a lot of homeschool ‘Pro D Days’ and we ate a tonne of Kraft Dinner. We weren’t always living our best lives.
However, the lack of choice created a sense of freedom that, as a parent, I welcomed.
Almost overnight, our options for free time were narrowed down to a select few. Even if I wanted to take the kids to the pool or organize a playdate to entertain them, I couldn’t. I was used to spending our weekends doing things and now there was nothing to do but be together.
I had always wanted more intimate family time and now it became a reality. With all of the clutter of pre-pandemic life erased from our lives, I settled into the extra time with my kids.
This summer will be our second COVID summer and when I reflect back on last year, I am grateful for the simplicity of it. One day I would like to be able to take them to Disneyland, to the PNE and to travel to exotic places. But I believe that there is something in all of us that cherishes the little things in life.
When I reflect on the summers of my childhood, my warmest memories involve something little. Something so seemingly insignificant as jumping off the dock at a lake or popsicles from the corner store and sliding down the slip-and-slide with my friends.
Do you remember what knowledge you retained from the historic site you visited on that big family vacation? Probably not, but you might remember sitting in the backseat of a car, watching the road go by as your family road-tripped to a destination.
One of my favourite memories from childhood is a summer day spent on a boat with my brother and Dad. We spent the day playing in the different coves in Desolation Sound. We jumped off the boat into the water, picnicked and lounged in the sun.
It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary because we often went boating as a family. But this day was different. It was just the three of us, which was unique being from a blended family after my parents divorced. I was with the two men with whom I felt the most cherished and safe, free from family dynamics and responsibilities.
This day stands out in my memory as one of the happiest days of my life, right up there with my wedding day and the births of my children. What gave the day meaning was three key elements: freedom, connection and play. It was spectacularly simple.
Life with young children is both beautiful and exhausting at the same time. So, summer days can feel really long. But when—or if—life gets back to pre-COVID normal, we may be too busy to savour the little things.
If COVID has taught us anything, it is that the world can change in an instant. Maybe this is the summer you declare to live simply. Maybe there are places on Vancouver Island that you’ve always wanted to explore but didn’t because the PNE or the Okanagan beckoned.
This could be the year to make a Vancouver Island Bucket List for your family and go for it.
We can’t know which moments with our children will crystallize into memories they will cherish as adults. If there ever was a summer to embrace the little things—chasing the sound of the ice cream truck, going camping or having a picnic at the beach—this is it.
My hope for all parents is that you can relax knowing that what your kids will remember from this summer is swimming, ice cream and time spent with you. Likely in that order.