Motherhood

Going for a 1970s Summer

Giving Your Kids a 1970's Summer

This weekend, we visited friends in the North Fork, the laid-back waterfront towns along the top of Long Island, with rocky beaches, oyster stands and a giant carousel.

One night, Toby was passed out, but Anton wasn’t tired (is that child ever tired?), and he climbed out of bed and called downstairs while the grown-ups were having dinner.

“Mommy?”
“Yes, Anton?
“Um… so, what are you guys doing?”

It was so sweet and cheery and hopeful (you could basically hear his fingers cross) that we said he could come down and hang for a while. He ended up eating corn on the cob and watching the Yankees and staying up later than I did.

The scene — including the metal fan and cozy sofa — took me back to my own childhood, where we ran around like maniacs the entire summer. We lived in the Michigan suburbs and all bedtimes and rules flew out the window once school was out — just riding bikes, sneaking snacks, getting bored and reading books in that little space behind the sofa.

My sister and I were laughing the other day about how, one summer evening, my mom actually offered us $20 each (!!) (that’s basically a million dollars to a 10-year-old) to not talk all night. Just be silent. AND WE DID IT.

Did you ever see the post 10 Ways to Give Your Kids an Honest-to-Goodness 1970s Summer? A mother of four recommends sending kids outside, of course, but what made me smile was the other straight-chilling stuff she recommended:

    Let them watch TV. Plenty of it.
    Eat whatever you want, and/or whatever can find.
    Play this until you want to throw it against the wall, or smash into 1000 pieces. It’s the original train-your-brain app.

These last few weeks of summer, I just want to soak up the boys and go where the wind blows. I can’t let them loose around New York City at this age, but last night, we went for a walk as the sun set, and then stopped by Rite Aid to look at the toy cars (their favorite thing, beats any museum), and had scrambled eggs for dinner at 9 p.m. It was a lovely evening — and the best part was that they passed out as soon as their little heads hit the pillow.

I often wonder if I’m getting it right as a parent — should we live in the country? do I work too much? — but at times like that, sitting next to your child, eating corn on the cob late at night in the glow of a baseball game, it feels just right.

What have you been up to this summer? I’d love to hear… xoxo

Going for a 1970's Summer

P.S. My motherhood mantra, and trying out slow parenting.

(Top photo from Instagram. Bottom photo by Camilo José Vergara.)

  1. Libby Warner says...

    Love all these comments! I was a 70’s kid and I remember riding our bikes everywhere. All my friends and I had 10 speed bikes and they were our ticket to freedom! I remember riding my bike to the grocery store for my mom to buy milk and her cigarettes! That was legal back then! My kids were 90’s babies and since we live in a small neighborhood were able to run free. I remember looking out the window one day and my three year old son was walking down my neighbors driveway, totally naked! He had decided on his own to go visit his favorite person! (obviously I didn’t see him leave!) She was in her 80’s then, from the deep south and loved my kids like her own, we were so blessed to have her for a neighbor! She would make fried chicken for the kids and they would come home so happy with big red mustaches from drinking Cherry Smash at her house. Many years later my son had to write a story for school about his “Special Person” and that is who he wrote about….to this day they still have a special place in their hearts for Mrs. Davis. My kids are now 31, 29 and 23.

  2. Sanaa Murray says...

    thank you so much for this lovely post Joanna- I could literally taste the fresh corn and feel the electric fan on the summer night. My husband, 8 month old daughter and I are moving to Brooklyn next month (Cobble Hill) and I’m so grateful to have people like you as role models for how to go about building a considered, kind and communal life in this crazy city for our kids. You are getting it right and building a wonderful blueprint for the rest of us while you’re at it, so please don’t leave!

  3. patricia blaettler says...

    One of my favorite memories is my son, about 8 years old, sitting in a plastic play pool surrounded by GI Joes on a boogie board in the water with him. Hours of fun.

  4. Katherine says...

    I just got back from a week in Michigan! My stepmom is from Kalamazoo but every summer we go up to Lake Ann to cabins that have been there since the 50s. Michigan is for sure my happy place.

    Also, illustrator @beatrice.blue just hosted #childhoodweek on Instagram and it was beautiful and inspiring seeing childhood shared via different mediums and memories. Found several new artists to follow, too!

  5. Emily Wachelka says...

    Thank you for this post because it made me feel like I AM getting it right.

    I have my three boys (5, 3 and 10 months) with me for summer vacation. Boy those days are overwhelming to manage on my own.

    But I’ve discovered a secret strategy! We get out of the house and then I let them do things for HOWEVER LONG they want.

    I mean we have a general destination. Playground/zoo/pool. But if they want to stop and look at a snail for 45 minutes/play at the playground for hours/ the metal gorilla statue at the zoo is so much more interesting than the actual gorilla 2 feet a way. OKAY.

    Summer is my yes time. I try to say yes to basically everything if they’re still safe and happy. It has made these weeks so much more fun.

  6. Lynsey says...

    We recently spent a week at my grandparents’ cottage on Vinalhaven Island in Maine. Our four year-old son and two year-old daughter ran in and out of the house all day. Back and forth from the beach to the sleeping loft (everyone sleeps in one room! Kid heaven) to the garden. We let them stay up to make s’mores and see the stars every night . Then they would fall asleep instantly. We pushed long naps in the late afternoon so that my husband and I had some precious adult time. It was absolute magic. I wanted those sweet vacation days to last forever. Since we got home, I’ve tried to recreate that feeling….. it’s true that all of summer can feel like vacation if you let things run a bit looser, even with the routines of work and daycare. We’re making the most of these last summery days.

  7. Hannan says...

    Sorry i know this is way out of topic but may i know how you sleep trained your children? I always fall asleep with them when i cuddle up with them and hug them to sleepnand wake up the next morning with so much housework. Thanks!

  8. Lindsay says...

    This post made me so nostalgic for my own childhood summers: riding bikes to the beach, camping in the backyard, slip-n-slide, push pops and making horrible “perfume” out of rose petals and well water left to ferment in empty baby food jars.

    I am fairly laid-back and spontaneous by nature and hate to be over-scheduled but my husband is very different. He likes a very predictable routine and feels like he is wasting time if a day off isn’t planned to the hilt. My 4-year-old son is just like his dad and thrives on structure and routine. I always thought I’ve give my kids lazy summers with lax rules but I’ve realized that my kids (or at least my son) really do best with predictable bedtimes, mealtimes and so on. It’s been interesting to realize that I need to adjust my parenting style to accommodate my kids’ individual needs.

    Still, we’re definitely spending lots of time hanging out in the wading pool, having dinner picnics on the beach and occasionally ruining dinner with family dates to our favorite ice cream parlor. It’s a balance for sure.

  9. I can feel the same way.. living in a big city means our little guy can’t ride his scooter up and down the street, set up a hockey net in the cut-de-sac or gather the neighborhood kids for an impromptu adventure. BUT, living in the city means he has other summer time memories – lots of free concerts in the park, meeting new people of all ages and backgrounds on our daily walks and having fun when we visit friends and family in the suburbs.

  10. Sara G. says...

    To me, I’m so curious what it’s going to be like for kids growing up and seeing their parents blogs, Instagrams, Facebook pages, and lives laid out so thoroughly online. I used to love digging through my mom’s old “memorabilia” that she kept in a wooden chest at our house. It was such a special day when I got to open up the chest and pull out her old photos, love notes, postcards, pins & buttons, etc. from moments she cherished. It was this whimsical glimpse into the past to try and think of my mom as a teenager or child. What will my future kids think when they can see essentially my day-to-day life (though let’s be real – mostly the good days vs. bad days), my thoughts, frustrations, musings, and the mundane… Just some food for thought! I’m so curious. I guess we’ll have to wait and see – only time will tell!

  11. Liana says...

    I’ve just realized that I spent two years of my childhood about 30 min away from where you grew up in Michigan. I remember just the best summers of my life there. Lots of running around, playing games of kick the can and capture the flag. There was tree climbing, fishing, frog catching…. and I grew up in the 90s so maybe there’s something about Michigan ;)

  12. Oh my goodness, we ran WILD. Feral 70’s summertime childhoods: tangled hair, strawberry crush, and a garden hose with a sprinkler attachment. Heaven. We lived on a hill, and one summer we rode our big wheels down that hill a thousand times, going as fast as we could, yanking the brake at the bottom and spinning out to a stop. By the end of summer, we had worn a big flat hole in each of the back plastic wheels! We did all of this in the middle of the street, too. Love the corn cob picture.

  13. Susan says...

    Ha. I remember being like Anton (in the 1960s). I find it so odd how people romanticize the 70s though. What a difficult time. (Watch certain All in the Family episodes. Highly recommend.) Anyway, of course there are times like hanging out in the summer. Just feels odd. I keep seeing these 20-40 year olds writing posts, pinning what they think it was like.

  14. Denise says...

    I miss the days when Mom would send my siblings and I outside after breakfast and just say, “be home by dark!” We did so much exploring all on our own. It was magical independence and greatly informed who I grew up to be.

  15. Love this! When I was a kid, my stepdad offered me 20 dollars on a road trip to not ask any questions the whole 12 hour ride. What a struggle! haha

  16. PM says...

    Absolutely love this! Love hearing about your childhood. :)

  17. Ae says...

    Adorable! Curious, though? You say you can’t let them run loose in NYC. Why is that? I’m from NYC- born and raised and still thriving here! And my parents, and all of the parents on our block, let us run loose all summer and during any breaks. It’s a super safe place, especially if you live in a community where everyone feels like family, it’s okay. There’s tons of adventure and independence to be gained by letting your kids just go in New York and it’s always so confusing to me when transplants seem hesistant to do so.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i would actually LOVE to let them go to the nearby playground by themselves or walk to the ice cream shop alone, but isn’t it illegal? i’m so scared by that story about a mom who was arrested for letting her kids walk home from school alone. i do let anton play on the sidewalk outside our building on his own (he never goes near the street, and he is just obsessed with the little ant hills:), and once i let toby run around the block by himself because he really really wanted to, but that’s it so far! curious about whether it’s actually allowed these days.

    • R.M says...

      I don’t live in NYC but I identify with Joanna. I dream of being able to let my kids (still too young at this point) test their independence by having small adventures on their own. But literally last week a friend was telling me about wanting to mother children at the playground who obviously weren’t getting loving parenting. At first I thought she was talking about poorly behaved kids haven’t been taught appropriate playground behavior, but then I realized she meant kids who had been allowed to come to the playground by themselves. To her, kids at a playground by themselves= poor parenting. *sigh*

    • Jilly says...

      One of my friends grew up in downtown manhattan taking the subway, walking to school, etc by himself from way under 10 years old, PRE-Cell phone, ha, so it’s hard to imagine not allowing kids at least limited roaming now. His family had servants though, so maybe one of them tailed him but I doubt it. How else do they learn to navigate different types of people/situations? I mean, the ability to discern between parental neglect and trusting your child’s ability to navigate is a case by case scenario for sure, which means it has to be left up to the parents to decide.

      There’s a post out there somewhere about the difference in how supposedly unsafe it is now vs say, the “idyllic” period of the 1950’s and it turns out the rate of crimes against children is exactly the same. The media uses fear to destroy autonomy and grown ups are teaching this fear to their children, effectively crippling their ability to think independently.

      That said, major metropolitan areas are just more crowded and scarier now, I think and discernment re: your neighborhood is vital, along with either a cell or all your info on a card on their body, etc. But a park across the street – sounds safe enough as long as he is socially savvy…Does he feel comfortable with it? And know what to do if he felt unsafe or got a weird feeling about someone?

    • Vicki says...

      So … I let my older kids sit in the car once (cool weather, middle of the day, four of them, able to navigate a parking lot if they needed to come get me) while I ran into the grocery store to get, I don’t know, milk and apples. Some lady walked up to the car and told them they were too little to be in the car by themselves! It *totally* freaked them out! In California, I couldn’t find a law with definite ages for leaving kids alone, but I don’t worry as much about them getting into real danger as much as I do about them being harassed by (well-meaning?) strangers!

    • Talor says...

      thinking about Joanna’s response, I feel so scared to do a lot of the things my mom did with my sister and I growing up (this wasn’t that long ago, the late 80’s/90’s in Queens, NY) because now, people will call the authorities if you do something they think is “shocking”. I read an article about a mother whose neighbor called Child Protective Services on her because her young children (I think they were 2 and 4 maybe) were playing alone IN THEIR OWN BACKYARD…. the mother was watching them from the house. I think we live in a more uptight generation because the world seems to be getting worse and more unsafe for its most innocent and vulnerable citizens. I struggle with letting my child run free because I’m so afraid that if I do someone will not agree with that parenting style and think its OK to call the cops…. sorry if I’m being a negative Nancy.

  18. Em says...

    This sounds so much like my 90s summers. I’d wake up leisurely in the morning, then head outside to find bugs, draw with sidewalk chalk, or join the other neighborhood kids to ride bikes through the woods. We could go into anyone’s house at any time for snacks — so many Cheetos, Doritos, and Carpi Suns — and our parents never knew where we were.

    It was either that or I’d be so painfully, incredibly bored. The afternoon would drag on as I watched the same cartoons over and over again, praying for death. But still, I loved how long summer felt and was always heartbroken when it was over.

  19. Hey Joanna, (longtime no comment but still always reading!) we wholehearted embrace the 70’s summer vibe! With no real schedule and no lessons to run off to, we explore parks all day, eat ice cream, hang with cousins and friends, dine outside as much as humanly possible, and swim late at night. While I’m not blogging much anymore I have been documenting a lot of our summer on Instagram if you’d like to check it out… @stacyfoxley

  20. This is so lovely – I was born in 95 so unfortunately never experienced the 70s summer although I do remember that my childhood was phone & internet free on holidays until I was about 14/15 which was GREAT! I would love to do an outward bound kind of holiday like what happened in Cheaper by the dozen 2 – looked so so fun!

  21. Lo says...

    I remember some amazing summers as a kid at the childminders:
    – playing tennis with badminton racquets in the school tennis court
    – eating shaved ice for breakfast, lunch and dinner
    – watching bad 90’s movies until our butts were sore

    Such happy days, without the mindless technology we have now!

    Lo

  22. Tezra says...

    I love your blog and have been following for years. I especially love in this post how you describe exactly how sweet Anton must have been feeling “you could basically hear his fingers cross”, this puts me in his perspective and having a 3 year old myself I need to remember his perspective more and relax as a mom. I need to soak it all up and remember to be kind at the end of a long day as he is probably asking me something while basically crossing his fingers and I want nothing more then to give him those awesome memories. Thank you for this perfectly worded reminder.

  23. Alison says...

    Love this post! It’s so hard as a mama to know what is right/best for you and for them. Just to have another perspective is wonderful. Thank you

  24. Bec says...

    I am uncomfortable with the idea that our kids summer breaks should be like our childhood summer breaks. For most people achieving this is very difficult if not impossible. Who says todays summer breaks are any worse or any better than the 70’s and 80’s. They are just different.

    My husband and I both work full time. Our daughters summer has been 90% summer camps (full time care everyday, not overnight). She picked the ones she wanted to do and has been super excited each week to go to a new camp. The other 10% has been camping trips. Her summers are the complete opposite of mine and my husbands. She is happy, we are happy, and that is all that counts.

  25. Emily says...

    One way we have found to give our kids a super relaxed summer (while we both still work) is to get a summer baby sitter/nanny. Instead of packing lunches and waking our up in the summer, we can all sleep in a little and I can leave for work just when everyone is waking up. They play outside and swim all day and probably also watch more TV than I would let them, but they LOVE it. (They’re 8,6,4, and 1 so obviously can’t stay by themselves yet:) And, we do something fun on my day off, like someone mentioned earlier. It is a break for them and us! Both my parents worked when I was growing up, and I have great memories of running around with our high school and college babysitters all summer.

    • Jilly says...

      This was my job as a teen in the summers – at 13, I babysat daily for the Valentine’s and their two little boys, both under ten and fortunately, they were both angels, I now look back and realize with awe! We had fun.

    • Jilly says...

      Important to say, I was paid really well by mrs. valentine – better than all my other sitter jobs, probably because she worked, but I so appreciated it and it really contributed to my sense of worth as a teen, something I feel is so important for young girls.

  26. Also Joanna says...

    Maybe I shouldn’t add my perspective – I’m so enjoying the other comments and this is such a sweet post, but it also makes my heart ache. My son (same age as Anton) has autism and one of the hardest things for me to realize after his diagnosis was that I don’t really get to choose what kind of mom I am – I just have to be the parent he needs. That means he always needs lots of structure and rigid meals and bedtimes. He often only sleeps 6 hours at night or is up for the day at 3am.
    I wish I could be spontaneous and relaxed and stay up late to catch fireflies and watch movies in our big bed. It totally doesn’t fit my personality to be totally structured all the time (and to be honest I’m not very good at it) and it often makes me cry.
    But I did want to share a happy memory we just made last week while visiting my parents on the lake – since he took a rare nap in the car during the 10 hour drive, I was able to take him to the beach after dinner. He sat in the waves throwing rocks and sand, as happy as he’s ever been, while I watched the sun sink on a truly gorgeous day.

    • Katie Larissa says...

      Thank you for adding, Joanna! My sister is autistic, and my mother still struggles with this. It’s not easy for her, (my sister also can’t handle it well when all the siblings+spouses+grandkids are home creating noise and chaos,) but my mom is consistently such a pillar of normalcy and structure for my sister and she is the person my sister loves most in the world, hands down. I’m sure it’s the same for your son. You mamas of somewhat “different” (not lesser!!!) children are so amazing and I’m particularly inspired by my mama and mothers like her –and you– every day.

    • Laura says...

      Thanks for sharing your story. I just teared up – I think because it’s so obvious how much you love your son. We’re all just trying to do our best. I think you’re right though – A lot of parenting is accepting your child for who they are and then embracing and nurturing their personality. Sounds like a perfect night on the beach :-).

    • Your comment made me tear up. You’re doing a great job!

    • Jill says...

      Thank you for commenting and making your voice heard. I am wishing you are able to find moments for yourself in all the chaos. Hugs from a stranger!

  27. Lily says...

    Yes to all of this.

  28. Jessica says...

    What part of Michigan are you from? I love how you speak of growing up there! It seems like the quintessential place to raise a family.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      rochester hills, a suburb of detroit! :)

  29. Laura says...

    Awww, I love this post! And Anton couldn’t be any cuter in this picture. I definitely think you’re ‘getting it right’ as a Mother. I’m a new mom and I’ve found myself continually coming to your blog for advice, comfort and humor as I figure out this parenting thing. I’ve sent posts to friends on everything from breastfeeding, to books to read, to what clothes to wear. Thank you for feeling like an old friend. Your boys are very lucky to have you :-).

  30. Lindsey says...

    It’s funny – I think we worry no matter how we do it. I live in the country next door to my mom and sister and all the kids roam around like a feral gang all day. Today my girl left at 10 this morning and didn’t come back until 6. So I worry that I’m not giving her enough structure, or that she should be not so . . . feral. Maybe brush her hair? Clean her country feet? We all worry we aren’t doing it right, I guess, because I read some of your posts and I think I need to take her on more trips. Haha

  31. Sarah says...

    We just got back from 1 week in Michigan. We stay at a cottage (not fancy, very grandma) within walking distance to the beach, down a dirt road. The kids can run free there. We stay up late and eat lots of chips at the beach! It’s the best trip of the year because we all just relax.

  32. Ani says...

    I loved that to you put a photo of Havana, my birth city, on this post. It is a perennial 1970 summer there!

  33. Meghan says...

    Our summer has been one of transitions…our son turned 3 (which means transitioning from the “terrible twos” to being a “threenager”), our daughter turned 1 (which means transitioning from baby stage to toddlerhood), I started a part-time job (after being a full-time stay-at-home mom for 3 years), and my husband just left for a month-long work assignment to Afghanistan, which means I’m solo parenting for our longest stretch to date. Basically, I’ve been trying to survive the summer and knowing that it WILL get easier/more fun…at some point ;)

    • Celeste says...

      Congrats on your new job! Everything will fall into place, I’m sure!

  34. Katey says...

    In reading all these wonderful comments, I was overcome by overwhelming sadness and finally found an answer to a question long looming in my heart: do I ever want children (says the stressed out career-minded married woman in her late 30s). And I realize now why maybe in the deepest part of my heart I may not ever end up having children: because I was that child of the 70s (80s) who had blissful and carefree summer days with a big backyard and lots of running free with a mom who stayed home with us all summer long (she was a teacher). I had the most magical summers and a magical childhood. I hear from some friends that they chose to have kid(s) because they want to give them the childhood they didn’t have. But for me now I’m realizing that perhaps I am choosing (albeit subconsciously?) to not have kids for the very opposite reason — I could never give them that incredible childhood I had. Thank you for adding a bit of introspection to my day.

    • Yes. Me too.

    • Felicity says...

      I verbatim said this to my mom earlier this year. My parents were both teachers, and while we didn’t have enough money to do everything, we did some of everything – particularly time together. I’m a teacher now – for exactly the reasons you mentioned – but my parter is a lawyer at Big Law and works insane hours on a regular basis and we live in the city. I can’t picture raising a child here, but I also know that we can’t move.

      My mom pointed out that there are great things about cities, like museums and culture. And also talked about how she wasn’t sure she had done the right things with us growing up. We weren’t in sports or other “programmed” activities, we were free range kids in the country before that was a thing. Basically, I think you just can’t win.

  35. Jane says...

    I’m a teacher and a mom to three boys who are 16, 11 and 8. I figured this would really be my last big summer with my oldest so we went crazy and went away for seven weeks! I was alone with the boys for five. We went to four countries, some with family, some with friends and some for adventure. My husband joined in for the last two and a half weeks so that made it all the better. We did some pretty adventurous stuff, some boring stuff, we walked a lot, ate a lot and played a lot of cards. Mostly though, we made some great memories and I’m really glad we had so much time together.

  36. Cara says...

    Hi Joanna,

    I have been a reader for years and truly enjoy your site for recipes, fashion, personal stories and more. You have done such great work so consistently that you now have a large and loyal following. Please consider linking to Amazon less and more to independently owned stores. I know it can be tricky since we are all so spread out, but you seem to care a lot about community and connection. Amazon is lucky that you tout them so often and locally owned stores would be even more appreciative to be mentioned. Even if it is a book or toy at your local shop; I can still use that to find it here. Amazon is doing no favors for the small businesses that your values seem to be more aligned with.

    Thank you for considering this. I know you can not be all things to all people. I hesitated to even send. You just have such a great space here. Supporting local is something that means a lot to me. Thank you for what you.

  37. Julie Keegan says...

    This post made me smile big. It is such a great reminder to not take life and parenting too seriously. Some of my greatest memories are my wild and carefree summers. I love the unplanned, rules-out-the-window moments the best! As a human and as a parent! Thanks for this.

  38. Lana says...

    I’m pregnant with my third right now and I just could NOT be the super parent I normally strive to be. We had sugary cereal for breakfast instead of oatmeal with fresh fruit, I rinsed out pickle jars and stabbed holes on the top to transform them into lightening bug homes, I let my seven year old watch A LOT of TV and now she loves Happy Days and I Dream of Jeanie, and today, because it’s eclipse day, I bought both my girls Moonpies. Moonpies! Last Year Me would have gasped with horror. Summer Me is like, “who gives a shit?! They love it!!”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Last Year Me would have gasped with horror. Summer Me is like, “who gives a shit?! They love it!!”

      = hahahahaha LOVE THIS.

  39. How sweet! My fiancé and I have discussed this a lot, what will we do with our kids over school breaks and holidays? As much as we are looking forward to family time at home, we want to be able to travel with our kids. That is something neither of us got to do when we were younger. But I am all for finding a balance; if I had to sit around with nothing to do (no phone, iPod, laptop) for hours/days on end, then they can in moderation, too ;)

  40. Paige says...

    PLEASE share any details you can about the North Fork! We are going this weekend for my husbands 40th! So excited for oysters and wine and slower pace ? Xx

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you will have the most wonderful time, paige! what a lovely birthday idea :) i don’t know that much about the area because it was only our second time there, but the town of greenport was lovely; and the beach 67 Steps was so, so pretty (lots of big and small rocks and just a lovely feel); and i’ve heard the best things about the North Fork Table & Inn for dinner (they also have a food truck in the back if you want to go the more casual route). have the best time!!!! :) :) :)

  41. Lael says...

    i love this. sweet little Anton! my baby is 6 months so we are only just getting a schedule down with a bedtime, but i love the idea of being more free spirited with simple fun pleasures in the summer. I will keep that in mind :)

  42. Jennie says...

    I have a PSA for everyone! It is not the last days or even weeks of summer. We have a full MONTH of summer left! So eat popsicles, chase lightning bugs and buy another box of sidewalk chalk. Our summer has been: 19 days on vacation in France and Italy, beach picnics, garden dinner parties and Irish concerts. My summer has also been my 4 year old son watching WAY too much TV on the couch while my husband spends his days gardening (as a teacher he is off) and me muttering through gritted teeth (WHEN are they going back to school?) as a work from mostly home executive.

    Another PSA: you can’t be present 100% of the time. You have to be absent so when you are there, you are giving it 100%. You just need to figure out the ratio that works for YOU and your family. Awesome Mammas, stop being so hard on yourselves!

    • Vicki says...

      Woohoo another box of sidewalk chalk!
      I bought a glorious, enormous box of 100 or so different colors of sidewalk chalk earlier this summer. My three year old daughter claimed it for herself and has been going to town! One afternoon, I looked outside and she had covered our long driveway with these chinky zigzaggy criss-cross scribbles in all the colors rainbow. It was magical! And so much better than what I do with sidewalk chalk — you know, clouds and sheep (clouds with legs) and daisies (clouds with stems and leaves).

  43. Sam says...

    You are doing such a great job. Being a parent and being present are hard things on their own and together a challenge. With the millions of loads of washing, the endless train of meals and snacks that need to be made, the chaos of sharing a space with little people (and a partner ) really being present, playing and listening to kids sometimes takes a conscious effort. On long summer days when life is lived more outside, chores are less, we are happier, there is mental and physical space to explore.
    I do think we can use this memory, this feeling to be better parents or just people all year around…bend bedtime rules, eat imperfect food…be imperfect and enjoy it.
    I have to admit we have found it easier to simplify family life (even though we now live on less than half what we used to!), after travelling and living in big cities for over ten years (Buenos Aires, London and Sydney) we returned to rural NZ. Here my kids can play on the street with the neighbours, explore the rocky beaches and eat fish and chips out of newspaper packets, go skiing and hiking and build dams in the rivers. They can get bored and find ways to entertain themselves without us holding their hand.

  44. Charlotte K says...

    Spent late 1960s early 1970s summer days lying under the maple tree in our front yard in blazing weather reading library books. Bliss.

    • kw says...

      This.
      That’s why they are called The Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.
      Bookmobiles, Lolas at the local variety store, cut off shorts.
      No structure, no pressure, no massive expectations.

  45. jill c. says...

    This is my first summer as a single parent so we’ve tried to make things a little more relaxed and fun for the summer. So far we’ve had ice cream for dinner on many occasions and we spend about every friday night renting a movie and watching it in my room and falling asleep all in the same bed (my kids are 6 & 7).

    other than that the kids went to art camp (b/c i work full time) and this is the first year we joined a small pool at a nearby school – it’s never crowded and is just enough to cool off and relax.

    • Christina says...

      You sound like a great mom! What wonderful memories you’re building with your little ones.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i agree, you sound like such a lovely mom!

  46. Britt says...

    Our summer has included
    Bodega icepops
    Slices of pizza
    Staying at the park it’s dark
    A trip to Boca Raton
    Summer reading at the library ( we read enough books and won tickets to the museum of natural history)
    My son likes dinner at the park which really means eating on the grass lol

  47. Celeste says...

    haha Anton asking what you’re up to is darling.

    But really, I came here to say that the numerals in this typeface are so gorgeous! <3

  48. CN says...

    If you’re enjoying it … you’re making a moment a memory of a lifetime … just like your mother … you’re getting it right❣️

  49. Francis says...

    This post makes my heart smile! Thanks so much for rekindling my memories of the late seventies / eighties growing up. It is so different now that it makes me wistful sometimes that my kids are being raised in a somewhat different kind of world. We are intentionally trying to bring back this simplicity into our lifestyle and have to remind myself that it’s ok if the kids stay up too late or watch a ton of tv sometimes – Relax mom!!!! Lol.

  50. My summers growing up were always spent hanging around the city pool doing mostly sort of nothing. Although there is no such thing really here in the UK I have found an indoor poor with a fun kid’s play area and take my girls once a week. Coming back home on the bus with our bag heavy wet suits and towels and everyone ravenous for lunch gives me the same feelings I can recall from my days at the pool. Even if the rest of our summer has been a bit dull this year I am hanging my hat on this ONE thing- this experience makes me feel as though I am connecting some of my favourite bits of my own childhood to theirs.

  51. Sandra says...

    I’ve been trying to recreate my 70s childhood for my son to the point of leaving the city and moving to the burbs, staying home with him rather than going back to work, etc. Some parts of it are great, some parts of it are not all it’s cracked up to be. You know what our moms were doing back when we were having our 70s summer? They were inside smoking and watching General Hospital or out in the backyard lying in the sun covered in baby oil with Sun-In in their hair drinking Tab cola. Now we can’t smoke, watch too much TV, tan without sunscreen (and even when we use it we have to investigate which ones are safer for our kids/the environment), bleach our hair with crappy home products that turn it orange, or drink soda. I sure wish I was a 70s mom!

    • Gen says...

      Ha! Ha! So true ;-)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha, laughing out loud, sandra! i want to come hang with you!

  52. Love this. Often we forget that money and flashy, material thing actually don’t give us these profound childhood experiences — it’s the people around us that do. I imagine that photo of Anton is one he’ll look back on when he’s all grown up and have a flood of childhood memories come back. That photo has so much coming from it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  53. Katie Larissa says...

    This summer has been hard for me. I’ve been struggling with postpartum depression and have felt like the whole summer was wasted and it was my own fault. But the mind and heart sludge is slowly clearing out and every day is a bit brighter. I’m able to truly appreciate my boys again for the first time in a while. So, I’m looking forward to the crisp coolness of autumn and taking long walks together and baking pumpkin muffins. It’s going to be all right.

    • Laura C. says...

      You are doing well and you’re right, dear Katie. It’s going to be all right. Go on sister, you’re an awesome mom.

    • RBC says...

      While I haven’t been burdened with PPD, I just gave birth to my 4th last week and between being pregnant (and ache-y and tired and grumpy) and now having a newborn (and trying to recover and get feeding going), I feel like I’ve missed the whole summer :(…and the last few days are slipping away. I’m on mat leave for a year (thank you Canada) so I’m trying to tell myself there’ll be lots of chances to do fun things with the kids this fall (afternoons at the park, hot chocolate after school bus drop off, snowmen in the back yard this winter – and all the way through to fun times next summer when I can actually manage to take them all fun places, like the wading pool!). Sigh. Sending hugs to you!

    • brianna says...

      You’re doing just fine! Personally, I’d rather bake pumpkin muffins than go to the pool any day of the week (but I despise any temperature above 75, so maybe I should be the barometer for summer fun).

  54. liz says...

    I’ve known city/suburb/country raised kids and the most important thing seems to be if they felt loved by their parents. Also, I’ve known kids that grew up on raw hotdogs and oreos vs. kids that grew up on 100% organic vegan food (before you could find it in the supermarket) – and everyone turned out basically ok. My brother is raising his kids in a teeny town, they eat real food 99.9% of the time, he’s a very thoughtful and involved dad and he worries all the time about being a good parent. I like your mom’s advice to aim for mediocrity. I feel for kids that can’t spend some time puttering without adults around. And I am completely mystified by the schedules many kids have that mean the family is out of the house racing around like demons every night. I’m really old but what happened to just chilling after school?

  55. Amy says...

    I’ve tried to just go to playgrounds, outdoor pools and spend as much time as we can outside with our girls who are 5 and 7. My 5 year old (an introvert) is enjoying the time together a lot and is mostly ok with not doing a ton. My older daughter loves being with friends and people all the time and I see that the summer is actually very hard on her. She loves playing all the time, but she longs for her classmates and friends in general. That part of summer killed me as a kid. I got so lonely because everyone else would go away, or have conflicting schedules and although I could occupy myself, I would feel very empty. Now I’m watching her struggle through and wishing I had actually signed her up for daycamps or something to provide her with that social aspect. I would honestly be ok with school starting middle of August, as I see my kids are kind of over the vastness of the summer.

  56. little miss says...

    I am an engineer,I don’t have kids,I work a lot BUT I am an aunt with a great great bond with my niece and nephews.
    They are included in every plan I make and I make sure we agree on planning.
    This means they participate in music festivals and I know Ikea smaland like my second home.
    This summer was all about this free spirit of eating as many ice creams they could handle,enjoyed acrobats under the open sky,waking up for a dip n the pool and late late nights riding their scooters in my parents yard.
    Our nights would end up with snuggles after a perfect shower.
    The funny thing is you could tell it was their perfect summer and we didn’t even leave the house for 15 whole days (apart from the grocery store).
    Our food consisted of the following:
    Ice creams,milk with banana flavour, milk with rose flavour,barbecue,pasta with moms tomato sauce.

  57. Kim says...

    I knew it was Simon before I clicked on the link. I guess I’m of a certain age.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      have you played it recently? it’s pretty hard, even for adults!

  58. Yes, we just got back from a beach vacation and I questioned whether we should go 100 times before we left, mostly because driving + sand + packing = NOT A VACATION. But watching my kids frolick in the waves and knowing (hoping) that’s the part they’ll remember made my heart break wide open. Life is so full of get-theres and be-thats and gotta-dos, and I can’t take much of that away (nor do I think I should, really.) But I really hope I can teach them to make space for frolicking in the waves.

    • Oh also! Our favorite summer and vacation treat is Fruit Loops. I make them eat a healthy breakfast before school but during the summer, you fruit loop until you can’t fruit loop any more!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahahaha love it

  59. Katharina says...

    Today we had pancakes for breakfast and for dinner.

    I needed this post today.
    These days I often feel like I don’t get much right. I’m hardly ever “in the moment”, I’m short-tempered and groggy.

    School starts again in two weeks. I’m still staying home with our youngest. She’ll start daycare in October and I might have found a new job starting by the end of the year. So now is the time to enjoy just hanging out with the kids. But I’m having a hard time doing just that at the moment.

    Plus summer has been cheating weather-wise. Maybe it’s harder to get into that summer mood on a rainy day with 20°C?

  60. H says...

    I grew up slightly north of Detroit as well. Nothing compares to a Michigan summer! I miss those cool summer mornings. Our family always went camping in the summer and literally spent all day swimming in the lake with only a quick stop for lunch. When we weren’t camping we were splashing in those little floppy sided kiddie pools and eating loads of farm stand buttery corn on the cob for lunch. I think we had ice cream every night!

  61. Anne says...

    My fiancé and I are a few years from having kids, but when we do, we’re hoping to send them to old-fashioned sleepaway camp. It would be a win-win – campfires, adventures, and no screen time for them, and the perfect time for romantic vacations for us! We like to joke that if the kids ever talk about wanting to go on vacation with us instead, we’ll be like, “Okay, but it won’t be very much fun. We go to a lot of museums…” Surefire way to lose a kid’s interest!

    • Escondista says...

      You sure? I LOVED museums as a kid! Wacky stuff to see and a gift shop? Sign me up!

  62. I had seen that 70s summer post you referenced and was inspired by it. We have let 3 year old eat copious amounts of ice cream, stayed out with him later than usual (just a few times), and watched SO many episodes of Octonauts. One night we were recently out with his best friend and his parents for an outdoor concert in our neighborhood, past their bedtimes, as they tiredly, deliriously danced around. The other mom turned to me and said, “These are the moments they’ll remember.”

  63. Alex says...

    This is so bittersweet. The thought of the “the last few weeks of summer” breaks my heart! I was born and raised in Miami (FL) and now live in NYC and winter is THE WORST. I think about moving to California on a daily basis.
    We’ve had such a fun summer this year with our almost 2 year old. It’s been all about WATER – at the beach, the lake, playground fountains, pools, garden sprinklers, creeks, and even just sittin in the sink on rainy days. And of course we’ve thrown in some Gelato here and there. :)

  64. Lisa says...

    Our summer has been a bit disjointed – my son is only 18 months old, and I work full time. We went away at the beginning to visit my husband’s family and friends in France for just over a week, and now his nursery is closed so I’m at home with him for a week (just heading home from work now!) and then a beach vacation.
    I’ve been trying to make sure he has an awesome summer (he won’t remember it, but it will be there) so when we stayed with friends who also had a toddler, just letting him hang out with his buddy. They have a house with a garden which we don’t have (central london …) and I was so happy he had a chance to get muddy and explore a bit on his own and chase another kid around. Then he had a few days with his grandparents, swimming, eating ice cream, running around, being taken to the park constantly. This weeks he’s had a birthday party (pizza in the park!), we’re going to a Museum with friends, he’s hanging out with grandma and visiting papa at work. I just want to spend as much time with him as possible, especially since number 2 is arriving in a few months.
    It can be hard sometimes trying to turn off the “be a perfect parent” voice, like yesterday I had to constantly remind myself that one day where 90% of his meals was pizza is ok (he had lots of fruit for dinner), as generally he’s fed well, that it’s ok for him to get muddy and to get bored.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “he won’t remember it, but it will be there” = i love that.

      you sound like a lovely, loving mother, lisa.

  65. Trish O says...

    Summer is over in Peoria, IL. The kids are back in school. Some days I can feel fall in the air. Our low key summer was the best.

  66. Dorca says...

    I don’t have any children, but this post is just what I needed to read. I have been spending way too much time watching TV, which is so unusual for me… But, maybe that’s what summer is supposed to be all about. A time to walk at the park, read books for fun and watch a ridiculous amount of TV.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! just to CHILL OUT for one second :)

    • Haylie says...

      OMG I love this post and this response so much. I also don’t have kids, and Dorca, you nailed exactly why this resonated with me so much. Joanna, I freaking love you. I’m also having a 70s summer: I just needed the language <3

  67. My favorite day this summer was the day that we dumped out ALL the Legos and spent the entire day putting together our sets that were all mixed up in the “dump.” With six kids we have a ton of Legos, plus we have all my husband’s childhood Legos–it was a huge mess but my kids could not have been happier. We stayed in our pajamas all day and ate granola bars and apples and baby carrots while we hunted down those elusive pieces (we did have to take a break to make some cookies to sustain us through the afternoon!). One of my sons took a picture of me that I will treasure forever–I’m on my hands and knees hunting for pieces in the middle of the Lego pile, and my six-year-old was tired and wanted to cuddle, so he climbed up and draped himself over my back like a little monkey. Such a perfect day and the one I hope my kids remember from this summer (it’s been a busy one with a new baby, marathon training, and teaching summer classes at the university, so not a lot of big memories…but hopefully they will remember this!).

    • Jennie says...

      I literally teared up when I read this. Your kids will remember this, I am convinced! What a perfect day.

  68. Lindsay says...

    Yes! Agreed. We don’t have a yard and sometimes I wish I had a HUGE yard the kids can get lost in with a tree house and swing set. I worry that they’ll be in the street if they’re outside unattended so they end up ipadding their brains out if I’m busy doing other things. Which I’m embarrassed to say?

  69. Celeste says...

    I’ve been working four days a week and having “Friday Fun Days” with my kids (7 and 9) while just barely scraping enough money for daycare for those four days. We go to the beach, the library, amusement parks…only 2 left before school starts.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i LOVE that idea, celeste! what a fun thing to look forward to every week.

    • Mallory says...

      Growing up, my dad was a pastor. Since he worked Sundays, his weekend was Friday – Saturday. In summer we’d be in camps M-Th but Friday was “Daddy Day.” Friday ALWAYS started with going to the donut shop, where my sister would bet my dad a quarter she could eat an entire apple fritter. Every week she failed. We’d sit at the table making snakes out of straw wrappers and playing penny football. Love these memories!

  70. B. says...

    You could do a whole post on just the question: Should we live in this country? Sigh. I don’t have kids yet but the current political and environmental climate is making me think twice about even trying.

  71. We live in Amsterdam right now due to my husband’s job, so we are embracing the culture and are spending the summer traveling (or, “going on holiday” as they say here). We have a 6 month old and a 2 year old, so I sometimes wonder if we’re completely insane to be dragging them around Europe (like when the toddler has a full-on, laying-on-the-floor meltdown in the middle of the Museum Nacional in Madrid, for example). But these trips end up being so amazing overall that it makes me glad we’re taking this leap. We play fast and loose with their schedules, stay out all day and go to bed late, and they adapt to all of it amazingly well. We miss our families back in California, but our life over here and these “holidays” (along with the current US political climate) make me really wonder if we’re going to go back. So the whole “is the US really where we want to put down roots” discussion is definitely happening weekly over here.

    • Lindsay says...

      I’m so relieved to read comments like yours. I never imagined that I’d have such enormous life decisions to make. Was I too sheltered growing up, perhaps?

      My husband and I discuss frequently the Where should we live?? question. As of now, we live near the beach on Long Island NY (we both grew up here) and it’s a nice little town with good schools. But I want more. I want a different environment for myself and my family.

      I think what you’re doing is wonderful :)

    • pdx mama says...

      your comment really resonates with me! i have an 11 month old and my husband and i brought him to sardinia and amsterdam for 22 days…. we played “fast and loose” too – late bedtimes, unreliable naps… BUT he adapted so quickly and was such a happy guy with all the italian nonna’s ooohing and aahing over him! it was eye-opening to see how much more relaxed parenting is in europe. there were little babies and toddlers out close to midnight! i soon stopped feeling guilty ;-)

  72. Tara Sharp says...

    This summer I set the stage for my kids to have the ultimate summer. They spent a ton of time picking berries, swimming, riding bikes, popsicles galore.

    There are a few things that my parents did that I think really helped me become independent, but they’re frowned upon now. 1. they made us play, on our own, in our bedrooms for what felt like HOURS (it was probably 1 hour) so they could have some peace & quiet. They also LOCKED us out of the house — we had to play in the backyard. It worked really well for my parents, and frankly taught us how to be bored, get along, take care of one another, explore the plants and trees….until one day, I was about 5 years old, when I found the garden shears, and gave my 3 year old brother a hair cut.

    • Summer says...

      My father locked us out of the house also! lol I thought I was the only one.

  73. Christine T. says...

    Yes! I love this. I’m currently on extended maternity leave (coming up on 18 months, yay Canada!) I’ve been taking my son to the various splash pads and wading pools around our city, eating gelato, and getting sun tans. It’s been the happiest of times.

  74. Kerry says...

    “I often wonder if I’m getting it right as a parent — should we live in the country? do I work too much?”
    …. My thoughts almost everyday. I think it may just be because I’m in the under 2yr old phase. Each day is different but your words always make my heart calmer.

    • Colleen says...

      Oh you’ll wonder that the whole way through. LOL!

    • Lindsay says...

      I’m afraid my kids will look bsck and say Why didn’t you do this or that? Why did we move? Why didn’t we move?

      I guess the idea is to make the best decisions you can with your whole heart and hope our kids are happy.

  75. t says...

    We have been totally going for a 1970’s summer. Beach all day, every day, staying up late, kids running back and forth between neighbor’s homes, bonfires in our back yard and way, way too much junk food and TV. This is their first real summer and I told them they can pretty much do what they want as long as it doesn’t cost money or is unkind. Perfect San Diego summer.

    • Madie says...

      Love these 2 rules! Can’t cost money and can’t be unkind. That pretty much covers all the important stuff! Very cool.

  76. This has been exactly my mindset for the summer. At the beginning of the summer I said my goal was to have a “lazy summer” for my kids (4 and 6) with extra TV and lots of ice cream. Of course there was plenty of outdoor and beach time too. I think I wanted to take the pressure off of myself to do what I felt like we are supposed to do (organized play dates and day camps seem to be the norm In our neighborhood) and instead do what my brother and I did all summer – a bit of this and that with boredom and more freedom mixed in. That said, tomorrow starts the first day of school and I’m excited to get back to a more productive routine. For me, the contrast of a “lazy summer” and Fall/back to school is refreshing.

    • This is exactly what I was going to say! Where we live, everyone does day camps and more often than not, several day camps where the whole summer is scheduled. I decided we were not scheduling anything this summer (not even swimming lessons – a first) and it has been great. The kids get up when they’re ready, *I* get up when I’m ready (which is usually later than they do!), they play, they go outside, we go to the library, out for ice cream, and it’s just been so relaxing for all of us to not be on a schedule.

  77. Liv says...

    We live in a small town with a public pool and that’s basically where we spend our afternoons- the whole town does actually. It’s like a scene from The Sandlot. We watch cartoons first thing in the morning, eat way too many Otter Pops and hang out, on hot days, in our underwear in front of the window box cooler. It’s the best.

  78. Emily says...

    I’ve been interning in New York, trying to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty of the first post-grad year — and now, not going back to school this fall for the first time in more than 16 years! My internship just ended so I’m heading back to CA to spend time at the beach with friends and cooking pesto with my parents. I don’t usually get homesick but the city life (subways, especially!) has grated on me this summer and I am really looking forward to returning to Northern California for a bit. xo

  79. Nancy says...

    Beautiful Jo. I am constantly reminding myself to enjoy the moments, to take a picture in my brain, to embrace the freedom of summer. The lack of homework, tests and tutors, I hate to see it go.

  80. Such a timely article as summer winds down. Loved the comments! Though my twins are little, I’m still embracing these quiet weekends with no plans.

  81. Andrea says...

    I recently saw comedian Darren Knight’s video “southern mama in summer” and I think he was eavesdropping on my mama in summer:
    -Get out from under me, it is not my job to entertain you!
    -Shut the door, the air conditioning’s on!
    -Y’all get up, you’re not gonna lay around and watch TV all summer!

    Once she locked us out of the house to get some peace in our one air conditioned room, haha.

  82. MA says...

    I think the fact that you are wondering “am I getting this right?” means you are definitely getting it right. :)
    Oh man, there is nothing like good old-fashioned lazy summer days. My family and I are traveling for a 6 weeks on a job for my husband. I have to work as well, so while I do that, my kids are having plenty of straight-chilling time, i.e., screen time. Part of me feels serious guilt, and then the other part of me (as they queue up another Brooklyn 99 episode while finishing the potato chips I squirreled away) is seriously jealous. Soak it up, kids, soak it up. This is summer.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      definitely soak it up!!!! love that :) :)

  83. Melanie says...

    Our baby is only 11 months so she can’t run amuck yet but we can :) Last summer I was huge and pregnant and not very much fun so this year it feels like we’re making up for it, only with our new little giggly side-kick and it’s been great. we go on family walks to new parks all the time (we live in Minneapolis where there are parks on top of parks) and hang out in the back yard drinking wine (us not her ;) and laze and play. Watching her discover the world alongside has just been dreamy.

    • Kristen says...

      Pregnant and huge Minneapolite here – your comment gave me all the heart eyes for our summer next year with our baby boy! :)

  84. Jenny says...

    We have eaten soooooo many hot dogs this summer! Ha. I gave up trying to cook a healthy well-rounded meal every.single.night so we can have more time to play in the clubhouse and walk the new puppy and go to the library. It’s been really liberating, and I think in the end, the boost it gives our mental health totally rounds us out. We live for summer!

  85. Erin says...

    Love this! Just before summer my family moved to a new state and I was really nervous about my boys (ages 3 and 6) transitioning to a new place. Turns out summer is the perfect season to move, we have had the best time checking out every park and ice cream joint in town, swimming after dinner, staying up way too late and renting every Red Box movie. I’m also a huge fan of “summer cooking” where my husband bbq’s something and I make a salad and slice up some fruit. Can it just be summer time all the time?

  86. Aww, I love this post. Our bikes were freedom wheels back then. Building forts out of fallen trees, catching frogs, scootering between friends’ houses, reading books by flashlight (harry potter style) because I couldn’t put them down. We’d even pedal to the nearby gas station for candy on our own, and you would have thought we were going to the most epic candy shop in all the land.

  87. Janey says...

    I love this! We live in the city too and my boys spent the entire summer playing a mysterious game called “mining” with the kids next door. They’d be outside for hours, coming in absolutely filthy. After a couple of weeks of them being totally into this game I looked over the fence to see various neighbourhood kids all engrossed in digging a massive, impressively deep, trench at the bottom of of the yard! Fortunately next door are not particularly into gardening and pretty easy going folks!

  88. Alex says...

    I was just discussing this with my mom when we were talking about my career and having more kids. I love my job so much, but when I picture having a few kids down the road (my first is 2), I envision us all together having lazy summers like my sister and I had…even in the 90s! But then again, my mom stayed home. I wonder if one of the biggest reasons kids can’t have 1970s summers anymore is because so many of them have two working parents that need to enroll them in camps and daycares and have babysitters lined up for every hour that they are at work. Of course, you can still embrace what it means to have a 70s summer and adopt whatever works for you. But I couldn’t help feeling a little bummed that with my husband and I both working, we could never really give our kids that kind of freedom. Has anyone else ever felt that way?

    • I think you’re on to something, for better or worse. I was born in 1970 and my youngest brother in 1978. I noticed a big change in the quality of summers from my little kid years to his. When I was young, moms and grandmas were mostly around and we kids were free to roam. My younger brother, however, had to go to daycare after my mom went to work, and then many other moms were no longer home either. It made a big difference, and the suburbs and towns got a lot quieter during the day. My favorite days after that were the days my mom had off and she would clean the house and take us to the pool.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I totally hear you. I’ve felt that way, too. My mom was around all the time, and we were able to just hang and run around, plus we had a backyard with a swing set. Was so fun and freeing, but I’m hoping my kids are getting some of that by going to a laid-back camp during the day and then hanging with us in the evenings and on weekends.

    • Ami says...

      I think the thing that changed is the expectations around kids being supervised! My grandmother worked, and her children were just left to their own devices all day. My mother also worked, and left me home to “babysit” my younger sister once I turned 10/11-ish. Those memories of the hi-jinks we pulled during our alone time are some of my most cherished memories, and my mom would say the same about her childhood! You’d probably get CPS called on you now, though :(

    • Alison says...

      If it’s any comfort, both my parents worked and I still have very fond memories of what felt like endless summers (also in the 90s). Playing with my little sister in our woods for hours, running around in sprinklers, eating a billion popsicles. Our babysitter would make us “snack lunches” which felt so fun at the time, but were just regular foods arranged on a plate! Anyway, kids can totally have an amazing summer with working parents. Even though it was just in the evenings, I have great memories of playing badminton in the backyard with my dad after dinner. We were just reminiscing this summer about how good we both got! You can definitely make it work!

  89. Cambria says...

    We just had our second baby girl seven weeks ago, so the majority of the summer has been spent pretty close to home – like, literally, inside. As such I’ve worried my three-year-old hasn’t had a very good summer – “very good” as defined by what I think she could be enjoying in the summer (lots of outdoor time, playground visits, city outings, picnics, swimming). I know some moms just pick up and get out with the new baby in tow, but that is not me (recurrent mastitis notwithstanding). I try to remind myself that it’s ok we’re not having a “big adventures!” and “make a memory!” kind of summer. It’s enough to learn how to be a new family of four, and that is what this summer is about. Hopefully we can be more adventurous in the fall. (And she can learn to swim then, too!)

    • Jasna says...

      Don’t beat yourself up, you just gave your three year old the best present she could ever get – a sister! Down the road, the summer her sister was born will be the best summer ever! Much love, mama!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      What a sweet note, Jasna. And congratulations, Cambria!!! Those early baby days are no joke. When our second son arrived, and I was struggling with having a newborn and three-year-old, my mom was giving me a pep talk and said, “Aim for mediocrity.” I loved the permission to just get through the days and not worry about doing anything more that that :) Sending you the biggest hug! It gets so much easier!

  90. Ann says...

    What a beautiful thought. I live for summer, my heart breaks every year when we fall back and darkness suddenly creeps in at 5:30pm. This summer was magical, my husband and I, both teachers, had it off with our 5 year old son. It’s our last summer as a family of 3 as his sister arrives in 8 short weeks. We were barefoot, had flash light lit “ghost hunts” outside after dark, ate popsicles on the sofa, slept late, stayed up late, went swimming, ate too many hotdogs, made fresh squeeze lemonade and sold it neighbors. Today is actually the last day of summer break for us with Kindergarten beginning bright and early tomorrow. So, I’ll start counting down until next summer and try to keep my summer living heart from breaking.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, what a dreamy experience, ann. my friend linsey sounds just like you — she LIVES for summer and really nails it every year. also, amazing to think that next year you’ll have two little bunnies running around!

  91. Thrizyl says...

    It hit me last week. I feel a bit sad for my kids. Both my partner and I work full-time so our kids have been in camp at their respective schools for the holidays. I feel sad because that’s not what holidays should be like. They should be able to get up late and roam and scream of boredom.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I bet they love it, though! Toby and Anton go to day camp, too — Anton just went for two weeks but Toby has been going all summer. He REALLY loves it, and it’s much more relaxed and playful than regular school.

  92. Sara says...

    Where are you from in Michigan? My family is in Saugatuck on the Southwest side :) Nothing can beat a Michigan Summer!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      midwest is best! :) i grew up in rochester hills, about 45 minutes north of detroit. my dad was in a long-term relationship with a woman who had a summer house in traverse city, too — what a dream it is up there!

  93. Tara says...

    I love this too! My 3 year old creeped downstairs the other night and we took advantage of a beautiful Michigan summer night, catching lightning bugs. The glee on his face was so worth it. It’s hard to find a balance between structure and “living on the edge” haha…. but SO worth it… especially in the summer!

  94. kate says...

    Ive thought about that 1970’s summer article ever since you first posted it. This summer I was determined to let go a little bit more (even though my kids are still small) and just CHILL OUT already – think, pajama DAYS, lots of corn and hot dogs, ice cream once or twice a day, skipping baths, maybe a little more screen time – i think my we’re all a little better because of it! its been great to be reminded that there are seasons for everything. :) (ok, most things)

  95. Very well said, lots of being outside as well as loads of telly (Elvis films and the Monkees were our faves as kids in the 70’s and early 80’s) and I am so in favour of letting kids be bored- it’s when I was most creative as a kid.

    • karen says...

      Oh my gosh Angela, this made me remember watching the Monkees all summer long. I was so in love with Peter, but now I’m more of a Mike Nesmith type of gal.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha i LOVED Davy Jones.

    • Katy says...

      Ah man I loved watched The Monkees during the summer holidays. Peter was my first crush!

  96. Kyla says...

    When I had my first child, I would get really down because I felt like I was doing nothing right, but when my second came along, I was too tired to worry about it anymore. So I leaned in. Now I have three, and I spend the days making sure they are safe and smiling as much as possible. I realized that my kids do really well when they are given space to develop their interests on their own, without me pushing them one way or another through activities and scheduling, especially before they start school. But you know what? That is MY kids. if parenting has taught me anything, it is that people are VASTLY different, and there is no one size fits all approach. And that is a wonderful thing! That means our world will remain interesting for at least another generation.

    Two more semi-related thoughts – 1. If you are ever in need of a cheap thrill, take your kids to the party store to get plates and napkins for their birthday (or dinner, if you are feeling fancy). There is literally no activity that my five-year-old loves more. He looks forward to it for weeks and takes it very seriously. It is cheap, and while not eco-friendly, if done sparingly, not that bad. 2. As I write this, my kids are spinning around and watching “Moana.” Since this is a film that took hundreds of people seven years to make, I consider it a work of art. If that is not a cultural experience, I don’t know what is!

    • Vicki says...

      I have to say that I’ve never heard “you’re welcome” from my kids as often as I have the last few weeks since “Moana” came into our lives!

  97. Heather says...

    We just got back from a week at the beach with our three kids, and the theme was definitely letting go: going barefoot, napping wherever, showering outside, subsisting on salty snacks and ice cream, staying up late, watching whatever was on TV when it was raining (the beach house did NOT have amazon prime or netflix! speaking of a 70’s summer…) and I’m sure plenty of peeing in the ocean. Traveling with tiny children is hard, and I think letting go is kind of hard, too: am I really letting my children relax or am I just letting them rot their brains and stomachs? I reminded myself how rejuvenating it was for me, as a kid, to feel a loosening in the summer, like getting a great big gulp of air; it’s a summer-state-of-mind I haven’t even permitted myself since having kids, and we all really needed it.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BXzI55YlfY5wUeZjcqxyLdZFjAN4w6ihd3O_SI0/?taken-by=hevuva

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a beautiful, beautiful photo, heather!

  98. I loved the free-wheeling days of summer with my boys. I worked less and my husband and I alternated taking a week or two of our vacation separately with them (to maximize time off with them). When they were old enough to be left home alone (young teens), they would sometimes stay up all night or spend all night in their tree house. Our lab would patiently watch guard at the bottom until they came down. One day I was rushing out of the house for an early morning meeting. I was half-way there when I realized I had automatically locked the door and the boys were asleep in the tree house. I went back b/c I had a feeling they would take the opportunity to break into our house and I chose colleague judgment over a broken window.

  99. Allison says...

    I live for those “I’ve got this” moments! At night, when my little boy is sleeping, doubt creeps in – “too much cheese? did I look at my phone too much? is he too trusting of others?” and on and on! Those moments of, “Nah, I’ve got this” sustain me in my weakest moments. And then I remember that my parents (a doctor and a nurse!) let me eat McDonald’s all the time and pop tarts for breakfast! Like your post a couple of weeks ago – he knows he is loved! And he is safe! What else matters? Lower the parenting-perfection bar all the way to the 1970s!

    • E says...

      HAHAHA “too much cheese?”

  100. Lauren E. says...

    This makes me so nostalgic for the summers of my youth. I grew up in upstate NY without AC and on the particularly steamy nights my parents would let us stay up late, watch beach movies on TV, and sometimes go for a swim after dark where we’d float in the pool and watch the bats fly by over head. It was pure magic.

  101. Eliza says...

    I. LOVE. THIS. There is something so freeing as a parent about letting go of the typical routine and embracing the moment. I’m sure we all remember some of the best memories as kids being when we (or our parents) were allowed to “bend the rules” a bit. Thanks for this inspiration today. I needed a reminder. :-)

  102. Whether or not you live in the country or in the city makes little difference to kids. Or your parenting. You are doing your best, wherever. And if you aren’t (some people don’t) you may as well live on the moon. Give yourself a break.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s really sweet and nice to hear, annie.

  103. Kay says...

    This post made me so happy. I love the dog days of summer, and having a young toddler makes me nostalgic for my own childhood, but also committed to facilitating a great one for my boy.
    I’ve been off work with my kid for a whopping 20 months, and he’s off to daycare in just a few weeks. The penultimate weeks of summer and upcoming transition are motivating me to slooooow things waaaay down. Since mid-June, we’ve spent every day at the playground (I haven’t had such a healthy golden tan since preteen years!), the beach, the pool, museums, or just slowly wandering around the neighbourhood with my son waving “hi!” to ALL the ants we pass, and asking “honey, honey” of the bees that fly next to us. Best. Summer. Ever.

  104. Stephanie McCleery says...

    Where did your stay on the North Fork? I grew up in Cutchogue and my husband proposed to me in Greenport. Love that area!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we were in greenport! it was so lovely. how cool that you grew up there! seems like such a relaxed, friendly place.

  105. Olivia M says...

    I’m 26 years old, live in SF, and just took a week off of work not to travel to any exotic place…but to fly home and spend the week on Long Beach Island, NJ with my family. I grew up going there every summer and haven’t been in two years and it was ALL I wanted to do.

    We went to the water park (!!) and went on all the slides and the lazy river. (I think I was the oldest person there without kids.) We went out for ice cream at 9pm. We paddle-boarded. We bbq’d. I read a few books. We played cards. We tried watching movies but ended up pausing and just talking and telling stories instead. We biked to breakfast.

    Even after showering every night I still felt like I had sand and sunscreen melted into my skin. It was heaven and truly felt like summer…something I haven’t felt since I left school. I miss it already. xx

    • Annelies says...

      Sounds great Olivia!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds so so wonderful, olivia.

  106. Anna says...

    This is why summer is my favorite time with my kids. I actually count how long I have with them in summers – my oldest is 8 so only 10 summer’s left. (Insert sobbing emoji. It goes so fast!) This summer my 8, 5 and 3 year old have enjoyed long mornings filled with tv and endless bowls of cereal, days filled with water, friends, snacks and sunscreen, produce inspired dinners from our family garden, a serious lack of regular showers, and flexible bedtimes. It’s the best.

  107. Alexa says...

    Oh, I love hearing these thoughts. I am four months along with my first baby and my mind is wild with thoughts and questions of how to give this baby and any others a truly happy childhood, and, really, just how to get it right.

    I will be checking back to read this comment section for days :)

  108. Ashley M says...

    Love, love, love this. We can bring that 1970s-esque childhood wherever we live.

  109. JO says...

    I love this! The other night my three year old was outside after dark with her cousins and my husband, catching lightning bugs. I started to call her in to get ready for bed and my husband made the case for staying out longer. He said, “So far, this is my favorite night of her life.” Well ok then :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that is so so cute!

    • Alexa says...

      Oh my gosh, this made me teary! What a darling moment for your family!

    • Stephanie says...

      That is LOVELY.

    • Megan says...

      OH that made me instantly tear up. xoxo

  110. MyHanh says...

    In terms of sleep, perhaps Toby takes after you and Anton after Alex! ;) My husband is the same. He can survive on 4 hours of sleep, while I’d prefer at least double that!! :)
    Thanks for sharing such a sweet moment.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, we were talking about this this weekend! toby and i are basically the same person (imaginative, super social, like to plan/know the plan, anxious, energetic, like doing a bunch of things in a day, fall asleep the second our heads hit the pillow) and alex and anton are basically the same person (really get into things, homebodies, introverts, laid-back, athletic, night owls). it’s really funny to see that with your marriage/children. i’m curious if other people have seen that with their own kids!

    • E says...

      My daughter is only 6 months old but so far SUPER chill. As my mom says, “she seems to have your husband’s disposition.” LOL.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha

    • Luna says...

      Interesting point! I also have two boys and can relate to one much more than the other. They are very different – also in terms of sleep. It is hard to manage sometimes, because they have such different needs. But of course, also great, because they are both amazing in very different ways. Would be interesting to read about this. How do you approach this, Joanna?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      luna, that’s such a good question and i’d love to think more and write about it. your boys sound really lovely. wish we lived closer so we could meet up and hang in person, too :)

  111. Heidi says...

    I have been doing to “Summer Of Yes” with my little girl who just turned 4. I work, so we have to have some sort of semblance of routine, but in the summer, I try to say yes more. Yes, we can go get sno cones or frozen yogurt! Yes, let’s try the new library location! Yes, you can have chocolate milk this time instead of regular! Yes, you can pick some fun junky stuff from the Dollar Store! I don’t know how, but it helps me to be intentional and whimsical at the same time.

    • Heidi says...

      I meant to say I have been doing “a” Summer of Yes, not “to.” Fast fingers.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so sweet, heidi. i really love that.

    • Allison says...

      I love that, Heidi! Control what you can, and in Summer it can be a little more “yes!”

    • Jenn says...

      I’m going to try to do this with my own 4 year old over the last few weeks of summer. She’s having a hard time with a preschool transition so hopefully this will help us get over that hump a little more smoothly. Thanks for the idea Heidi!

  112. “Should we live in the country? Do I work too much?” These are literally the questions that have been haunting me lately. Although if I changed those things my questions would be “Should we move to the city? Should I work more?” There are no right answers. Thank you for the reminder that we’re all getting it right, at least sometimes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, meltown! no right answer, for sure. i try to remind myself that my kids aren’t worrying about it so i shouldn’t either :)

  113. Laura says...

    I would say my parenting is a bit more relaxed in the summer, but because the kids are still going to camp each day since we both work, I don’t throw all rules out the window. We still stick to a similar bedtime (although it has ended up being about 20 minutes later than normal most summers). It is partly because they still have places they need to go the next day they can’t be exhausted for, and partly because my husband and I still want a break in the evenings!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      agree haha! many nights i’m like OK BEDTIME I NEED TO CHILL.

      camp sounds fun! so curious about sleepaway camp too — kids on the east coast seem to LOVE it and we never did that growing up.

  114. CJ says...

    I live this! Simplicity sometimes is best. If you can’t have some “fly out the window” time with the rules during summer, I worry our kids would grow up a bit too rigid.