My hand-drawn, cluttered summer calendar was stressing me out with its arrows, stickers, and Sharpie color-coded notes for different activities: swimming lessons, camping trips, art day camps, pool days, park visits, free outdoor movies. It was visually kid-friendly, for sure, and provided structure and routine. I wanted this calendar to make me feel prepared and accomplished. It committed us to a bucket list of fun. With a school schedule no longer organizing our lives, I thought this calendar was a great idea.

Back in the 80s, I was a latch-key kid with older siblings who had fast-food jobs, which meant I spent too many summer days watching TV and only occasionally biking with friends to 7-11 when I had enough money for a Slurpee. There weren’t day camps or outdoor public pools, and we lived on acreage with few nearby kids my age. Mostly, I was bored, and I wanted to make my children’s summers better than my childhood memories.

Yet all my planned “epic” fun created overwhelming expectations for my family, with little kids who still needed help with sandals. I was trying to make our days feel pre-emptively exciting. Though, in reality, I was already feeling busy enough while juggling motherhood and work-from-home responsibilities. By mid-July, I was deflated. Too many unrealistic plans.

From then on, I vowed to not create an obnoxiously full summer “to-do” calendar. Instead, I made spontaneous morning-of plans according to our energy levels, moods, and the weather forecast; sometimes I tentatively scheduled the night before. And I kept it simple: splash pads, playgrounds, picnics, pools. Plus, some family vacations and camping weekends.

Now that my kids are older, planning more detailed summer adventures is easier. We meet friends at a beach, plan a short morning hike or bike ride before it gets too hot, and if I want to make banana pancakes for breakfast, we relax and enjoy. This summer, with free admission to City of Spokane aquatic centers, we’ll definitely be swimming more often. And some days, like past years, we may just put our small inflatable pool under our backyard slide, attach the water hose, and call it a water park. No packing swim bags, snacks, and lunches; instead, quick bathroom access and air-conditioned breaks inside.

I don’t have to be my kids’ awesome day camp director. Together, we now choose a mix of favorite and new activities to structure our summer days. Some will be better than others. Not every day has to be “amazing.”

Let this issue’s Summer Adventure Guide help inspire you, not overwhelm you. Pick and choose a feasible few outings from the over 100 summer adventure ideas. Maybe try a couple of new ones. My kids want to try stand-up paddleboarding and ziplining this summer. We’ll see. There are 10 weeks and 5 days before school starts again. There’s no time to do it all, but enough time to make it a memorable summer with plenty of time spent outside. //