Thursday, July 1, 2010

Making our annual 'Beach Bucket List'

Summer has been off to a crazy start, as I prepare for the publication of one book and finish up writing another. That's why you haven't seen much of me in these parts. I'm hoping to be able to return with some lighthearted vacation posts next week, followed by more regular spiritual posts after that.

For now, however, here's my latest Life Lines column, which expands on something I first blogged about last summer:

Last summer we established a new tradition at our house: a summer list of things the kids want to do before they return to school in September. It’s sort of like a Bucket List for kids, or, in this case a Beach Bucket List. The kids liked the idea so much that when I suggested it they immediately got out a marker and a giant sheet of neon orange poster paper and started mapping out the details.

Family camping and tide pooling were listed alongside bike riding and making s’mores. They even listed a few oddities, such as repainting their bathroom, as well as some very basic things like swimming and gardening. Each item on our list had an empty box next to it, waiting for a check mark to show we’d fulfilled a wish or goal. We hung the list on our basement door so we could watch our progress over the days and weeks.

Sometimes there would be a flurry of Beach Bucket List activities, days when sleepovers and water slides and picnics collided all at the same time and allowed us to check off items in rapid succession. Other times things lingered unchecked – like family camping -- until the very end of summer, reminding us that some goals take time and planning and, dare I say, an extra dose of enthusiasm on mom and dad’s part. Even at that, our camping “trip” was in our own backyard, but the kids loved the tent and fire pit and eggs cooked outside in the early morning as much as if we’d driven an hour or two to real campsite.

We recently made this summer’s list. Clearly some things are going to be perennial favorites. Walking on the beach and going out for breakfast are probably always going to be on our list, no matter how the old our family gets. But we discovered some new twists. Chiara, almost 5 years old, added “coloring and crafts.” Olivia said she wants to meet up with a little girl she met at the beach last year and has been pen pals with ever since. And, of course, family camping – at an official campsite – is at the top.

Lots of people talk about making a Bucket List, based on the movie of the same name. And there’s something to be said for writing down our hopes and dreams so we can look at where we’ve been and where we want to go. The danger is when we fill our list with only those difficult-to-attain dreams, the things that may take us a lifetime to complete. Not everything has to be over-the-top.

We grown-ups have to learn to approach our own Bucket Lists with the enthusiasm of a 5-year-old on a summer afternoon. Sure, we may want the big stuff – a trip to Italy, a week-long silent retreat. But we can’t overlook the seemingly small stuff – sitting on the deck with the kids and watching the bats come out at night, picking apples from the tree, buying a bouquet of sunflowers for no reason at all.

Life is full of big moments, small moments and in-between moments. We have to relish each one as it comes along without getting hung up on the one that got away. By making a printed, taped-to-the-wall list, we can see our hopes – and our accomplishments – in plain sight, reminding us of all the good things that are yet to come with a little effort and a lot of trust.

So this summer I’m making my own Beach Bucket List. I’m guessing that many of my wishes will duplicate those of my kids. What a happy coincidence it will be when we simultaneously check off our accomplishments with fingers sticky from toasted marshmallows and hair sticky from salt water and sand.

To read previous Life Lines column, visit my website HERE.

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