What Not to Do This Summer – Part 4

beingThere are four hindrances to diligence (we’ve already talked about the first three: being preoccupied, being hasty, and being anxious) that, if we think about it, might also be seen as hindrances to making the most of our summer! The fourth and final hindrance to diligence, St. Francis de Sales suggests, is “a desire to do too much,” and it’s the one of which I am most guilty.

 “There is no need of wearing ourselves completely out in the exercises of virtue, but we should practice them freely, naturally, simply, as the ancient Fathers did, with good will and without scrupulosity. In this consists the liberty of the children of God: that is, in doing gladly, faithfully, and heartily, what they are obliged to do.” – St. Francis de Sales

  1. Don’t Do Too Much

 Especially here in Western Canada, where winter seems endless and summer is fleeting, there is always the temptation to do too much during the summer. We want to “make the most” of our short-lived summer, go out for one more beach day or boat ride, host one more barbecue or bonfire. With the kids home from school for over two full months, it’s tempting, too, to fill the days just to keep them busy and off their screens: another program at the library, another round of swimming lessons, another camp, another play date. I’ve certainly been guilty of this, of creating the Ultimate Summer Bucket List, full of activities to do, things to see, places to visit, more and more and more items to check off the list. And at the end of the summer, I can look back with pride and without regret, knowing that not a moment of our short but splendid summer was wasted.

But a funny thing happened last summer. In September, when I finally had a moment to breathe, after all the beach days and boat rides and pools and picnics, I posted our summer photos to Facebook. There were pictures of sunsets and swimming lessons, evening walks and football games, picnics on the beach and drinks on the deck, roasted marshmallows and happy kids. To everyone, it would have looked like we had a full and fun-filled summer. But as my husband clicked through the album, he said, “Where are the teenagers?”

beingIn the twenty or so pictures I’d posted of our summer, our oldest two weren’t in a single one. Where were the teenagers that summer? In all the busyness and bustle of having the funnest summer ever, my 15- and 14- year old had drifted to the edges. While we busied ourselves with programs and play dates, they, the older two, the calmer two, the two who are more content to do less, got overlooked along the way. “We lost them,” I said to my husband after a dreadful September of bad attitudes and outright defiance, “We lost them over summer.”

It’s almost a year later, and after months of working hard to connect and reconnect, I don’t feel that way anymore. But I’m not taking any chances this summer. Instead, I’ll take the advice of another Francis, who once tweeted, “Parents, can you ‘waste time’ with your children? It is one of the most important things that you can do each day.”

There’s only one thing on our summer bucket list this summer: Waste time together. Make no mistake: there will still be boat rides and bonfires and beach days, but our priority this summer will be less doing this or that fun and amazing thing, and more being. Being present, being together, being family.

Can I be more and do less this summer? Can I waste time with my family?


About Holly Gustafson

Holly lives with her husband, James, and their five children in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. She received her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba and now pursues her love of language through art, writing, public speaking, and unsolicited grammatical advice. Her favorite show is always the one she’s currently watching, and her favorite saint is always the one she’s currently reading. The best advice she ever received was from her spiritual friend, St. Faustina, who told her that when in doubt, “Always ask Love. It advises best.”
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