A Better Version of Myself

By Diane Stark

A Better Version of Myself

“I can’t believe the summer is almost over already,” my kids and I lament every August.

“And we didn’t do anything we wanted to do,” we say.

Somehow, year after year, the summer months just seem to slip through our fingers, and we’re left feeling like we should have had done more, seen more and just had more fun.

But the school year looms upon us like a giant kill joy.

Last summer, I was surfing the internet and found a solution to this problem. I ran across Summer Fun Bingo cards. They are like a Summer Bucket List for kids.

On the first day of the kids’ summer break, I printed out one card for each of my five children and helped them fill in the spaces with activities they wanted to do that summer.

Concerned that I would end up with five Bingo cards filled with “Go to Disney World” and “Fly to the Moon,” I made sure we talked about limiting the number of expensive activities to just a few and trying to think of fun things to do that didn’t cost a lot.

My kids surprised me. Each card was a little bit different, but the kids chose some of the same activities. Their Bingo cards included the following free or nearly free activities: have a water balloon fight, go to the library, have a family movie night, go to the pool, build an obstacle course, go play at the park, have a watermelon seed spitting contest, have a board game day and build a tent in the living room.

Their cards also included going out for ice cream, ordering pizza, getting frozen Cokes from the Speedway station, choosing a candy bar at the drug store and getting hot pretzels at the mall. These are all things our family does on a regular basis anyway – we gotta eat, right? – so it made sense to include them on the cards.

There were also some extra special activities like choosing what I made for dinner one night, buying a new outfit, going to the movies, having a friend spend the night and choosing which restaurant we visit for lunch.

After all the Bingo cards were filled in, we hung them on the fridge. “I’m not promising that we’ll be able to do everything on everyone’s card,” I said. “But I promise everyone will get a Bingo sometime this summer.”

“What’s the prize for getting a Bingo?” Four-year-old Nathan asked.

I thought for a minute. “I think I’ll pick up some fun things from the dollar store.”

“Oh, I love the dollar store!” Ten-year-old Julia said, and then jumped up and grabbed her Bingo card from the fridge. She erased one of her activities and in its place she wrote, “Go to the dollar store.”

Each of the other kids followed suit.

So we decided that when we went to buy the Bingo prizes at the dollar store, each child would choose three things to share with everyone else. Three items times five children times one dollar per item equals fifteen bucks.

Quite a bargain for an afternoon of fun.

Ten minutes later, we were in the car on the way to the dollar store. The kids were beyond excited to be getting their first square filled in on their Bingo cards. At the dollar store, they chose squirt guns, water balloons, glow sticks and Silly String.

Including the Bingo prizes, we spent twenty dollars at the dollar store that day, and those items kept the kids busy for days. The kids even got another square or two filled in on their cards.

During our giant squirt gun fight, Nathan grinned at me, water dripping down from his hair and into his eyes. He swiped his hand across his face and said, “You’re fun, Mommy.”

For this mom, that was a million dollar moment. It meant so much to me because while I know that I’m a good mom to my kids, I’m not always a fun mom. A good mom prepares healthy meals and makes her kids eat their veggies. A good mom makes sure that homework is done, baths are taken and bedtimes are followed. A good mom is responsible and sensible.

But a fun mom fills water balloons and plays hide and seek. She spits watermelon seeds, eats popsicles and builds blanket forts. A fun mom throws caution to the wind and bends the rules for the sake of fun. She grins and giggles and doesn’t worry what time it is or how many calories something has. She’s laid back and care free.

Last summer, I became a better version of myself.

For those ten weeks of summer break, I was actually a fun mom. And I vowed to keep her – or at least a part of her – once my children returned to school.

But it wasn’t easy. Vegetables need to be eaten and homework must be completed.

I found that being Fun Mom all the time just isn’t possible. Our lives would be utter chaos if I stopped worrying about things like bedtimes and homework. My kids need me to remember things like track meets and snack days at preschool. They need me to remind them that they cannot live on just Cheez-it crackers and chocolate chip cookies. They need me to be responsible and sensible. My kids need a good mom.

But then I remember the squirt gun fight and the look in Nathan’s eyes when he called me fun. I miss that look and long for the return of Fun Mom.

My solution? A Summer Saturday, no matter what season it is. It’s a day off from schedules and clocks – and even from calories. The kids make mini Bingo cards, and we try to cram as much fun into that one day as we can.

For that one day, I am once again, a better version of myself.

I love being Fun Mom.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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