Summer is over. It has been for awhile according to my boys. If you entered a craft store at some point, you were being sold its ending in July, when the foam pumpkins dared to take up position on the shelves. Inevitably once the school bell rings on that first day, there is a sadness and a feeling that it has indeed abruptly come to a halt. Having been born on one of the last days of summer, I feel that stretching this season runs in my blood somehow. I have always liked to get out every last drop of summer goodness. My boys know this and join my conspiracy to make summer last forever.

Labor Day seems like the last chance, the final day of pools and swimming and all things for the children who sprout gills in the hot sun. This year it rained buckets and storms roared, and in the the Chicago area and much of the Midwest it felt like we were jipped out of the sweet ending.  In the days since, the heat is still sticky and we are more aware of it being the true last hurrah—the pull of fall is strong. Still we avoid the sweet tinge of grief in letting it go, in the changing of the guard.  For some of us it is embracing some rhythms while rebelling against others—the new school, the empty nest, the big transition or possibly, quite simply, the speed of it all. Stepping back onto the hamster wheel knowing you won’t be getting back off for awhile.

It is so easy to look back on summer and have some pangs of regret, looking at what was left on the proverbial bucket list and the memories unmade. The fighting, the unending feeding, the days being stretched to their edges all can skew the truth of a summer. We can overlook the season of harvest that is summer—the vacation that finally came to fruition, the regrouping, the bonding, the late night talks, the morning pj trampoline jumping, the lingering chosen over rushing.

This year as I’m looking back I’m challenging myself to use a different lens because really at the end of the season all we really want to know is if it was enough. And so the one and only question I am asking myself to measure our summer is this—

Did they come up for air?

See the measure of summer while fun, isn’t a complete bucket list, it’s a deep, cleansing breath.

As our kids get older, they need to hold this full inhale even more, like when the doctor asks you to take a deep breath in, yes that, times one hundred. It’s filling up their oxygen tank to be used throughout the school year as needed. This one question encompasses all others because it is universal—we all need the deep breath.  A cleansing breath that reminds our kids who (and whose) they are. One that contains plenty of laughter, reminds them they are loved, and makes time for the things that they don’t have time for during the school year— maybe even Fortnite.

After a long barren winter, summer is about reminding ourselves to breathe and take in the good things—the abundance of good things. To refocus and center, steady ourselves on the safe ground of home. To bond and grow sibling relationships even through the aches and pains of fighting.

We may be eyeing the cute fall decor at Target and peeking at the Halloween costumes, yet we will slowly relinquish the stolen minutes of light in our mornings and evenings until summer releases us from her grip completely.

To combat summer bucket list shame, I’ve created a sort of un-bucket list if you will, a way to record the things you did do this summer. A worksheet for you and your child to jot down, side-by-side, the things that were good and how summer grew them. What they did to come up for air. Have dad fill one out too and print one for each child, you can help them as needed.