06/24/2015 06:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Moms of Summer: Forget the Socks, Let's Find The Joy

Lately my newsfeed has been inundated with tales of summer parenting fatigue. We're just a couple weeks into this season of unstructured adventure and it seems one more stray sock may just be the thing to send moms everywhere over the edge.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's easy to be surrounded by a tribe of needy, hungry, messy creatures. (The only rainbows and unicorns in our house are the ones permanently stained on my daughter's pillowcase after last weekend's face-painting extravaganza.) Even so, I've found that if you really take the time to look -- right there in the middle of all the chaos -- there's a whole lot of wonderful.

Those wet, grassy footprints you just found all over your clean hardwood floors? Next year, they'll be notably bigger. Perhaps even too big to create the 12 projects you pinned that you have no intention of actually completing because, really, who does that more than once­ -- or even once for that matter? But you can't resist the idea of wanting to dip those chubby toes in paint, because you know those feet represent a fleeting moment in time. Sure, it's a moment that comes with piles of laundry, but it's also a moment where your efforts are rewarded with spontaneous hugs and "I love you"s. And come next summer? Those footprints may even be someone else's problem. Because, if you're like me, at least one of your kids is approaching the age where he'd rather be off at a friend's house than spending time with the lady who's starting to make his eyes roll.


So maybe the container you needed to store today's lunch leftovers was made into a snail sanctuary early this morning -- complete with holes in the now unusable lid. That's totally ok. You know why? Hours -- ok, minutes that felt like hours -- of sibling teamwork and giggles. Your little ones enjoyed a bit of hands-on science that didn't require Google or a trip to the library or, for that matter, you.

The aftermath of today's LEGO-building session was enough to make any parent scream for mercy. (I know -- and so do my neighbors.) But somehow just watching that little mind at work and those little fingers at play while sitting on a blanket in the front-yard shade, well, it was pretty spectacular. There were moments of defeat, problem solving, and -- in the end -- triumph. And, after really sitting back and watching, chances are you even learned a thing or two from your kid as she worked her way through the seemingly endless, tedious steps and ended up with a pretty impressive finished product.

Yes, this summer moms everywhere have cleaned more crumbs than we care to count. We've counted to three more times that we care to admit. And we've admitted defeat more times than a grown woman should. A summer with school-aged kids at home certainly comes with its challenges.

But, I'm choosing to take them head on. I say bring on the messes. This summer we'll work on learning to clean them -- together. And the bickering? This summer we'll practice resolving conflict -- together. If those tiny bellies claim to be empty yet again? This summer we'll fill them -- together. And, yes, I'll even go so far as to say give us boredom. This summer we'll find new ways to squash it -- together. (Or embrace it, for that matter...after a school year filled with the demands of modern childhood, I think we've all earned the opportunity to relax a bit.)

As the mom of three happy, healthy children, I see these summer challenges we're all facing as badges of privilege. So I'm going to do my best -- even when our family is at our worst -- to wear them with honor. Because long after the footprints and crumbs have been wiped away, my heart will linger on the moments that took my breath away, filled me with pride, and made the chaos look beautiful, if only for an instant.

A version of this post originally appeared on Using Our Words.

Amy Heinz is a San Francisco Bay Area mom of three and the writer behind Using Our Words -- a parenting blog filled with lessons she's learned (usually the hard way), laughs she's enjoyed (mostly at her own expense), and tears she's shed (this mama's got heart). You can also find her on Facebook.