It’s official: Summer is over. I’m actually really bummed about it. What did three Southern California women set out to conquer the second school let out back in June? Disneyland, Malibu, Manhattan Beach and more! Oh, and Fresno. One of these places trumped all the rest… and proved something big I’ve had strong hunches about for a long time.
Forget about seeing Cinderella in the flesh, making mermaid tails out of sand and getting to eat the biggest scoop of ice cream ever allowed while walking on a pier famous for spotting celebrities, my daughters’ week in Fresno took the big prize as being the “most fun ever” this summer break.
“When can we go back?” my girls consistently demand.
“I want to live there when I grow up,” my older one now says.
Sure, my girls were lucky to hit all the hotspots with Grandma, Grandpa and my sister and her daughters during their week without me in the Central Valley; Princess Camp at The Dance Studio of Fresno, Chick-fil-A at River Park, Vacation Bible School at St. Gregory Armenian Church in Fowler, CVS Pharmacy, my parents’ pool.
It was granddaughters gone wild in a town that many Fresno born-and-breds frequently regard as dull (myself guiltily included here). Most of my daughters’ time was filled, as grandparents must often do to pass time with little ones, but the activities they did were not over-the-top or fancy by any means. (OK, Princess Camp might’ve been a bit fancy.)
Yet, they can’t stop talking about all the fun had while doing fairly common activities.
Their lasting enthusiasm personally proved to me that kids truly don’t need all the bells-and-whistles we sometimes feel obligated to produce for a “happy and memorable childhood.”
Living in Los Angeles, I’ve been to birthday parties that probably cost almost as much as my wedding, seen listings for day camps that rival tuition at UCLA and have ongoing conversations with parents about how many and which activities I’m enrolling my daughters in this school year (dance, gymnastics, soccer, music?)
We’re all guilty of getting sucked into the “how much do you do” comparing, and I’m sick of it.
One week in Fresno this summer proved something life changing to me: Our kids don’t need much to have a freaking blast. Yes, we want the best for them. Yes, we want them to excel and be entertained. Yes, we want to be selective when it comes to tackling activities that encourage them to grow in the right direction with nice friends.
But, all of those things can still happen even if what we choose for them is not over the top and in moderation. Extraordinary often comes from the ordinary… this includes curbing our overscheduled lives.
If happiness in childhood is up to us parents, then we’re not doing so great. A variety of recent studies show today’s youth identifying with increased amounts of anxiety, depression and lack of problem-solving skills than previous generations.
Many psychologists and child development experts attribute these terrifying findings to overscheduled lives. Here I was at the end of summer, having regrets that I didn’t take enough advantage of all the wonders Southern California offers with my daughters. Huh.
Heading into this busy fall season, I challenge us to resist the temptation to overschedule our families in the name of creating happy and successful lives. There’s magic in the downtime, but we can’t reap it if it’s not there. Save our time, save our money, save ourselves the drama of feeling like we’re not doing enough in the name of creating happy childhoods. True happiness comes from kids just living life with their families.
Even if what we’re (not) doing is happening in Fresno.
Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno, CA and graduated from Sanger High School. Founder of the lifestyle blog TheFabMom.com, Jill is a Parenting Lifestyle Expert for CBS Los Angeles and is writing her first book, 'The FAB Mom's Guide' (Spring 2017). Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @jillsimonian.