List Connections

putting the stress in summertime fun

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Erik Christenson

Each summer, my kids make a list of all the Super Summertime Fun Stuff they’d like to do after school lets out. I’m sure you’ve seen, heard of, or perhaps made a list like this at some point in your life. My beautiful wife got the tradition going years ago, hand-writing beautiful blocks of text describing fun things. Her lists looked amazing and stayed hanging on our wall well after August because they just looked so nice and totally not because I was too lazy take them down until the following January.

Now that everyone’s older, we all scribble what we want to do each summer on a big piece of paper. Most of the scribbles involve different ways to shove ice cream into our faces.

But my wife is really good at coming up with fantastic things for the list. The Super Summertime Fun Stuff. The memory-making stuff. And that’s a relief because the list makes me feel a little anxious. Planning fun things to do is not my strong suit.

I’m not a picnicking/kayaking/skydiving sort of guy. I’m more of a “let’s wander around the backyard with a beer and, you know ... see what happens” kind of guy.

My own weekend lists are mostly full of dumb home repair tasks and stupid, pointless yard duties like “edging.” I think my summer fun gland has severe blockage. Most people want to go picnicking or traveling or kayaking or skydiving. I’m not a picnicking/kayaking/skydiving sort of guy. I’m more of a “let’s wander around the backyard with a beer and, you know ... see what happens” kind of guy.

I don’t want to be that guy. I’d like to be the guy who bursts into the kitchen on the first morning of summer dressed like a circus ringleader as a marching band floods in from the doors and windows. I’d lead the house in a snappy dance number, singing an original show tune called “A Tall Glass of Sunshine (That’s Cold and Refreshing and Won’t Burn You).”

Alas, that’s just not who I am. But I bet if I tried really hard, I could think of a few good things for this year’s list. In fact, I could probably use this list to my advantage. Stick with me, here ...

First, I’d need to think up some awesome stuff to do. Then, I’d need to sneak a few of these items onto the kids’ list  – under cover of darkness – and hope no one notices. It will be a challenge to accurately recreate my family’s different writing styles, but it would be worth it. Since the list was made for our sweet, innocent children, the likelihood of us actually finishing everything is high. Could it work?

It might maybe could.

Right between “make root beer floats” and “swim in a lake,” I could sneak in “tour Wisconsin’s finest beer breweries.” Right between “see a drive-in movie” and “pick berries,” I could add “spend entire weekend in a jacuzzi.” And right between “sleepover at Grammy’s house” and “foster a caterpillar,” I could write in “re-watch all seasons of Game of Thrones (in a jacuzzi).” 

Sure, many of my summer activities might stand out a little. They aren’t exactly “group activities.” Or “kid-friendly.” Or “summer-related.” But I bet the whole family would be so high on the crossing off of to-do list items that they wouldn’t even question why we’re suddenly lying in a giant hammock sampling different styles of chicken nuggets. They’d be too whacked-out on summer productivity!

OK, now I’m thinking this might be too difficult to pull off.

I’m also thinking I need to have more adult fun with my wife. I’m not knocking the kid stuff (I’d love to eat waffles for every meal), but you can get so busy making sure your kids’ don’t miss out on Classic Summer Experiences that you kind of forget to round out your memory collection with some grownup ones. I’m not saying one set of memories is more important than the other, I’m just saying ... Grandma and Grandpa can pick up the kids any time, here.

And hey, if you don’t have kids, why the hell are you reading this? Go find a rope swing.