I recently saw a meme with pictures of texts between two mothers. The first mom said, “This summer we’re doing camp, swim lessons, Disney, 16 craft projects, a short documentary on whales, and a family 5K.” She followed this with, “What are your plans for the summer?”
The other mom texted a picture of popsicles.
I am so the popsicle mom. I always had grand ideas for how I would spend the summer with my kids, including over-the-top activities I was convinced would secure this back-to-school mantra: “I had the best summer ever!” But with two working parents and the need to limit the number of camps our kids attended, our summers were pretty popsicle-type ordinary days.
And I often felt guilty about it.
I hear this sentiment from many parents today, and I often wonder how we got to the point of feeling guilty or anxious over the inability to provide a summer-long “Disney Cruise” for our children. There is nothing wrong with offering extraordinary opportunities for our kids, but a feeling of shame over mere ordinary provisions is a sign that we have bought into a cultural ideal rather than listening to how Scripture exhorts us as parents.
Pressures Toward the Extraordinary
Social media is an obvious culprit. Too much time spent scrolling through someone else’s summer activities leaves me wondering if I’m the only popsicle mom out there. It’s a luring beast that causes many of the insecurities that parents feel, and it feeds anxiety by depicting false ideals of families that always get along, of parents who have endless resources for vacations, and of moms and dads whose children have no struggles.
Our culture is also pressure-inducing when it comes to summer breaks. We are told that our kids’ happiness is the goal, and to make our kids happy, we need to provide all that they could ever dream of or want.
But this is not a Biblical idea! Our primary job as parents is not to provide our kids with Pinterest-worthy activities to make them feel happy. Coming up with creative events that stimulate smiles and make memories is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but that cannot become the ultimate goal in our parenting. Our ultimate responsibility is to love Jesus and to teach our kids about him at every opportunity the Lord provides (Deut. 6:7-9). That is the single most important goal in our parenting as believers in Jesus.
When we feel the need to always turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, we subtly teach our children the lie that happiness is the aim, and it is primarily found in big opportunities, events, and excursions, rather than in a relationship with Jesus.
The Ordinary Path to Following Jesus
Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
One of our primary jobs as parents is to model for our children the beauty and benefits of committing their lives to Jesus. When we put our hand in his, we are on the path of life, whether our days are extraordinary or not.
The “right hand” is the place of honor and security. The benefits of God’s right-handed pleasures are too numerous to count, and they are incomparable to anything we can provide for our children. How we will share this profound truth with our children should consume our thoughts way more than how we will be lavish with their summer days.
When this truth doesn’t consume our minds, when we are overwhelmed by what we can’t provide, there is grace. There is a never-ending fountain of it, so keep drinking from the well that reminds us that Jesus will give us the grace to do what he’s called us to do. He will work in big ways in our children, even when all we provide is the seemingly simple.
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes a fascinating section where the senior devil talks to his fellow demons about the everyday things that humans do: sleeping, washing, eating, playing, and working. To keep humans from not taking pleasure in these ordinary graces from God, the senior devil says, “Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.”
Indeed, the Devil has perverted the ordinary, causing us to feel unsettled when we aren’t providing bigger and better. He has caused us to overlook the beauty in the ordinary moments in this life.
The Beauty in Life’s Ordinary Moments
My dad passed away when I was fairly young, but I still think of him often. While I remember a few spectacular family vacations and special events with my dad, what is most vivid, the memories that I keep coming back to, are the conversations on the beach about heaven or other Biblical matters, and the few minutes of uninterrupted time when dad would sit on my bed just to chat.
I remember those simple moments more than anything else in our relationship. The ordinary time with my dad was formative, necessary, and they made me feel profoundly loved.
I would venture that most children embrace these ordinary moments with you, mom and dad, more than any grand or expensive gesture that you can provide. So, along with the vacations and unique activities this summer, carve out some time for the ordinary. The pathway to conversations about the gospel is often found in life’s everyday moments. It’s in the beautiful ordinary that we have the chance to point our child toward their extraordinary Savior.
Take a morning walk with your child and ask them a few questions about their hopes and dreams. Read a book together that inspires imagination. Jump into the pool with your teens on a hot summer day. Sit on the deck and give a child your undivided attention. Take them to their favorite restaurant. Go out for late-night ice cream, roll down the windows, and let the music blast. Just enjoy the sweet, simple pleasures of life with your kids this summer, maybe even indulging with them in an ordinary summer’s day popsicle.