The summer solstice is a bittersweet time. As a photographer who mostly depends on natural light, I am addicted to the sun. I have been waiting all winter and spring for long, luxurious days of sunshine, but like a kid at a parade who quietly shoves in all the candy she can before her parents take notice, every year around June 22nd I suddenly realize too much of a good thing is….
well, not a good thing.
I think I learned this lesson again on the solstice this year. Maybe it was the two large cups of coffee I’d had, maybe it was just a burst of summertime energy, but for whatever reason the motto for the day between the kids and me became,
“Say ‘yes’ to all the things.”
Weed the patio? Yes!
Bike the pump track? Yes!
Swing by the store for popsicles? Yes!
Walk to the swimming pool? Yes!
Yes! Yes! Yes!
It was all so much fun, and I was really leaning into parenting like I always intend to on these beautiful summer days that will be gone before I know it. The problem? My energy reserves ran out long before my children's insatiable appetite for entertainment and for my attention.
Can we stay up till midnight?
Can we play games and have a dance party and watch a movie?
Can we have three popsicles instead of just one?
Can we run around the yard in the 9 o'clock sunset?
Can we have three popsicles and then a piece of cake?
(Ok, I made up that last one, but that would have been asked if there had been cake in the house).
Part of me hates the idea of suggesting we have boundaries in terms of our relationship with our kids. Our time with them is so short—we get 18 summers with each one (if we're lucky), and that’s it! How could we possibly hold back any part of ourselves? And yet...and yet….
I’m a big fan of moderation and balance (except when it comes to my morning coffee, apparently). When my family visited the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota earlier this year, we watched a stunning Lakota woman present a piece of her culture through speech and dance. I heard and saw in her an attentiveness to nature, to seasons, to taking what she needs and being proud of her accomplishments, but also to giving back where and how she can. In the pulsing drums and soul shaking singing, I felt a connection to something deep, something primal that has been lost by most of us, and I found myself tearing up without knowing exactly why.
We need the summer solstice. We need days bathed in perfect sunlight, running from one lovely experience to the next, but no more and no less than we need a harsh winter storm that drives us in doors. Where is the parallel in parenting our children? I don’t know exactly, but I suspect is has something to do with being fully present to them and celebrating their childhood to the fullest extent possible, but also somehow not losing ourselves in the process. When my oldest was a toddler, I remember thinking she was like a black hole of need, that no matter how much I gave her--of myself, of popsicles, of ANYTHING--nothing was going to fill her up and make her stop asking for more. I had to decide then to set limits, for her and for myself.
Like any parent, I want my children to have the most wonderful, memorable summer possible, but I also want to invite them into life in general, life in the real world outside of organized activities: folding laundry together, washing the car, taking out the trash, and the straight-up boredom we all feel on a hot summer day that doesn’t contain any excitement.
So this is the lesson I learned from the summer solstice of 2022. Did my kids learn it, too? Based on the number of times they have asked me if they could have another popsicle this morning and the amount of caffeine I've consumed, I'd say we all have a ways to go.
Holly Freeman is a lifestyle family photographer, serving families in the Golden, Colorado area. She believes love is powerfully reinforced when families see their connections to each other in photographs on their walls, and she helps families find the wall art that fits their unique aesthetic and needs. For more information, give her a call. She'd love to chat.