Photo: Nicole VandeBoom

There is something deliciously languid about summertime with kids. I have always loved summer, being from Chicago and our notoriously brutal winters, it is not hard to know why this is my favorite time of year. Add summer break from school into the mix and life is delicious. We have slowed down our life to a snail’s pace on 100 degree July day. We have thrown strict schedules out the window. Even bedtime is negotiable. Gasp! I know, the ultimate parenting rule, broken to bits!

Our family theme this summer has been spontaneous picnics and gelato. In the middle of taking a step back and slowing down, and forgetting to update my weekly chalkboard calendar, these two pieces have risen to the top of our summertime shenanigans. We keep finding ourselves outside and eating, sometimes on a blanket, sometimes at a picnic table, sometimes on the ledge of a fountain, sometimes on a curb, and sometimes at a Farmer’s Market. Just sitting, eating, and enjoying the muggy air and warm sun on our sunblock slathered faces (no worries, I have not thrown ALL the rules out the window). We cannot resist the temptation to consume our calories under the shining summer sun.

My boys have gotten into a habit of eating gelato before lunch or before dinner. Sometimes before lunch and before dinner. It is a daily occurrence at this point. They are gelato obsessed. It just so happens our (my) favorite coffee place, steps from our building, has a gelato bar as well as copious amounts of delectable coffee. That is a win-win for all parties involved. I cannot find the energy to give the old lecture about not eating sweets before our meals. I am the mom who is normally very big on this. Treats are fun but they are for after you have eaten your healthy foods. All year long I repeat this mantra, over and over. You know what? I am exhausted of it. I just do not care as much in the summer heat. That is the honest truth. Letting go of some of the rigidity is relaxing. I promise, try it. Pick a rule you can live with letting go of and give it a whirl for a couple weeks. After a while the new nonexistent rule becomes natural. You feel so free, one less proverbial thing on your plate just by adding a frozen treat to it.

School and activity schedules can wear you down during the year. Life begins to feel like a cycle of wash, rinse, repeat. When we made it to the end of the year finish line, I desperately needed let go of the rules and regulations that kept our wheels spinning all year. As I sit across from them sipping my iced Americano, I watch their gelato covered grins, scooping spoonful after spoonful into my two year old’s mouth, while my six year old inhales two giant scoops. I am obsessed with this new pace of life. They are laughing, smiling, and sitting at the table being perfect angels. Gelato is my summertime hero.

We do not always need to be prepared for every activity we do. This is a lesson I am learning to embrace this summer. One day while wandering home in an espresso and gelato induced euphoria, respectively, we stopped at our local playground. The city had turned on the spray park. We did not have swimsuits, sandals, or even towels. I sat on a bench, had them take their sneakers off, and said have fun. Forty minutes later, I walked home with two drenched and giddy boys, sneakers squeaking from the wet toes inside. They were jubilant and very energized, chattering about how much fun they had playing in the water.

I am sure once school starts back up and I have two kids at two different schools, that I will nestle into the comfort of my chalkboard calendar. It would be fair to say that schedules during school are comforting and make life run smoothly (usually). This summer has taught me that it is ok to throw that out the window for a couple months. There is a time and place for structure and routine, mostly during the wicked winter Chicago months. What better time to leave those behind than when the sun shines late into the evening and the weather keeps you warm while walking home soaking wet after gelato and the spray park. With the possibility of a dinner picnic just around the corner.


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