An Ordinary Midsummer Bucket List

By Melissa Stefanec

In Shakespeare’s iconic play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” there are jaded lovers, mischievous fairies, spells and love triangles.

As a parent, I have a different kind of midsummer night’s dream — the kind where you know monsters are creeping up on you: back-to-school monsters.

In my midsummer dream, September monsters are lurking in every bush. Fairies have made back-to-school lists full of folder colors that are out of production and the only strange bedfellows are incompatible September schedules.

So, as I stare down another school year and feel the pending loss of another summer, I need a way to fend off the panic. As a lover of lists, I know I need a plan. So, I’m going to share my midsummer bucket list for me and the family.

This bucket list is special. Normally, bucket lists contain dream items that take a lot of effort, time or money to accomplish. My beat-the-back-to-school-blues bucket list is going to be the exact opposite. It will be full of items that are easy to accomplish.

When it comes to making memories with our kids, I think a lot of us parents overcomplicate things. We think memories are made of pomp, circumstance and big-ticket fun. We think the best memories will be extraordinary or exciting things.

But, when I ask my children, who are 12 and 8 years old, what their favorite parts of summer vacation are, they say things like playing kickball, having a slumber party or swimming at the neighbor’s house. Kids may be thrillseekers, but their stakes aren’t as high as we think they are.

So, the goal of my midsummer bucket list is to create memories and good times within a few miles of our home. This list is full of items I know my kids enjoy but that I often don’t make time for. My hope is that taking time to do ordinary and fun things with them will make for beautiful memories.

Here is the list for my family. I hope it can inspire other parents to make their own midsummer bucket list.

A backyard badminton game — We have a net up for half of the year, we might as well use the thing. We also have birdies that light up at night, making nighttime badminton a wonderful option. We need to have a tournament, complete with brackets and prizes.

A walk in the creek — Forget a walk by a creek, my family needs to take a walk in a creek. There is something special about chasing down minnows and crayfish while the water gently splashes your legs. And, there is something magical about a kid looking for a pool of water that is just deep enough to belly flop into.

An after-bedtime star gaze — The nighttime sky is full of wonder. From the different phases of the moon, to constellations, planets, satellites and drones, the night sky is a feast for the eyes. If I do a little internet homework and know what to search for, I can make this very special for my kids.

A family cornhole tournament — While I am at work, my kids play a lot of cornhole with each other. So, my husband and I can look forward to being the worst players in the tournament. But that is exactly what will make this so much fun for my kids.

A family movie night with a popcorn bar — My kids love popcorn and movies, even if both of these things are consumed in our own living room. To make things a little more special, we can have a popcorn bar, complete mix-ins, add-ons and dustings. We will make the popcorn on the stovetop and eat it while it’s warm.

An evening swim at the beach — We are lucky enough to live quite close to a state park. One special evening, I need to close my work laptop a little early, pickup a pizza and head over to the beach. There is nothing quite like a swim with a setting sun and meal eaten on a picnic blanket.

A family obstacle course — What kid doesn’t like making a fool out of their parents? To that end, I will ask the kids to use the oodles of outside gear we own and put it to good use. They can build an obstacle course and make all of the rules. Then, we can take turns attempting to conquer whatever silliness they have contrived. I look forward to likely falling flat on my face and laughing until my sides hurt.

An anecdotal conclusion — If you’re still on the fence about making your own simple midsummer bucket list, I want to share a story about stargazing. A couple of years ago I took my kids out in the backyard to see a meteor shower. We huddled under a blanket, waited patiently and were rewarded with falling stars. Months later, my son wrote a story about that night for a school project, complete with a drawing of us lying next to each other, which he turned into a refrigerator magnet. Apparently, it really is the simple, little things that make for beautiful memories. We did a lot of big things that summer, but a simple night under the stars is what stuck with him.