How To Stay Cool and Get That Summer Feeling

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Summer solstice is nigh, and the sun is ramping up for her big season. Schools are ending. No matter what “work” looks like for each of us and our partners, life just seems to shift in summer.

If you are like us, you’re sharpening your pencil on summer plans and trying to decelerate into summer mode. To wrap our heads around the season, we spent the other night building a matrix of the activities, trips, visits, babysitters, and camps that will fill our days. Suddenly, summer felt pretty darn high gear—an exercise in logistics that required multiple Google sheets. As much as we love a good Google sheet, I couldn’t be happier that, at a certain point, we knew enough to close the laptop, sip some wine and ask each other what we really want out of summer.
How could we make sure that this season was different and special for all of us? We dug back through childhood, asking, “What really made our childhood summers summer?” Memories started to flow: total freedom; slow mornings; swimming in the rain; feeling HOT; differing opinions about sand or grass stuck between our toes; loud thunderstorms; unexpected twists in plans we rarely saw other seasons; humid nights outside; campfires; the quiet of early morning fishing trips; cousins, neighbors and kids all around; and lots of ice cream. 
It occurred to us that our spreadsheets contained no shortage of things to do this summer, but our memories seemed centered on things to feel.  It’s these sensations and associations that defined this incredible time of year, not necessarily the activities. So, in a new tab on the spreadsheet, we made space to answer more pressing questions, What could this summer feel like for us and our kids? What experiences could we enjoy together in-between the various activities we had already planned for our team? 

I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide them, it is not half so important to ‘know’ as to ‘feel.’ If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and impressions of the senses are fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.
— Rachel Carson

We brainstormed just a bit and ideas started to flow. Here are just a few that really stuck:

  1. Make use of the extra light. We still have our matrix, and there will be structure to our summer. That is the world in which we live. However, we’ve decided to use evenings and mornings for discovery and delight. I’ll never forget when my dad woke me up in the wee hours to fish on the beach before dawn. Mind blowing stuff. Summer’s abundant daylight gives us the gift of hours before and after schedules kick in. We can make magic of them by doing things like waking up and taking a walk in the nearby woods; seeing the sunrise on the beach, over the hills or just in a local park; getting in our PJs and then going on a nighttime walk before bed; reading our goodnight books in the hammock. 
  2. Play in the rain as much as possible. Water is universally appealing. Kids love water. Humans love water. However, we often race indoors when it’s raining, and so rarely do the opposite. Seems odd, doesn’t it? So, no better time than this warm, bare-skin season to make rain-play just part of what we do. We’ve designated a basket by the door for things that can contain or conduct water (containers, tubes, recycled bottles) and plan to head straight outside next time it falls. We’ve even thought about letting the girls “shower” in the rain—imagine how wild and fun that would be?!  
  3. Embrace the heat. As long as we steer clear of the days that are just too hot to be safe, we can be outside nearly every day of the summer. Most of the days will still feel HOT, though, and we will undoubtedly remark (with palpable distress) about how hot it is. We all do it, but this summer we’re going to try to catch ourselves and switch from “Damn, it’s hot!” to “Wow, the sun is sending us some great heat today! What can we do with it?” So far, we aim to do things like: feast on sun tea and sun s’mores (thank you, NASA!); use a magnifying glass to burn holes in leaves; and use the sun as our own kiln, watching how our mud creations change in the heat.
  4. Teach kids to keep cool. We can go a step further to help kids learn to manage their own coolness. Plants and animals employ all kinds of strategies to stay cool, we humans don’t have to be different. And, for young kids, this is the time in life to solidify attitudes about the natural world. If we can give kids ways to keep in control of their own coolness, they can develop self-reliance and resilience. Here are just a few of our favorite ways to keep cool: experiment with frozen treasures; fill spray bottles with cool water and peppermint oil (the menthol actually activates the “cold receptors in your skin, making you feel cooler!); make our own nature fans, or place ice cubes on pulse points to cool down all over.
  5. Leave space in the spreadsheet. Some of our sweetest summer memories were serendipitous. I love and so rarely get to live by the Ugandan proverb, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” So, we figure, we need free times and spaces to take different paths and let magic moments emerge. Our tour guides of choice will be our kids—they are our greatest link back to what makes summer really feel like summer.
That beautiful season, the summer! Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if newly created in the freshness of childhood
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow