Celebrate Summer

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. –Alfred D. Souza

Despite my quest to unplug and slow down this summer, I realized today that for the last month I’ve still been waiting for summer to really start—for that magic moment when the fireflies flicker and my children’s laughter sends me into a moment of utter summertime bliss.  (Never mind that we don’t even have fireflies in California.)  Then I read the above quote and caught myself.

Since school got out June 14th, it has perpetually seemed like summer is just about to begin—Real Summer, with its picnics and late nights outside.  But there was always some obstacle in the way: moving, the sewer at the new house, the commenting section on my blog always needing to be fixed.  So many new projects to attend to, and so little childcare I can’t focus on anything.  As soon as X happens, I’ll be able to relax, I keep thinking, and it will feel like summer.  But then it dawned on me: These obstacles ARE summer.  They are my life.

And now I see summer all around me.  I’ve been camping with the kids recently, and I’m headed to the beach soon.  Everything smells like sunscreen—part chemical, part coconut. My children have been to Girl Scout camp, where they’ve had a cook-out, learned goofy songs about bananas, and made lanyards.  Yesterday, a friend taught me to knit while the kids barreled down a huge concrete slide, and we ate dinner at the time we’d normally be in bed reading. I’ve certainly not accomplished as much professionally as I’d like, but I have felt exceptionally inspired to make the world a happier place.

Truly, it is time to celebrate summer.  This week for my Walking The Talk challenge, I’m going to do something particularly summery each day: go out for ice-cream after dinner, play tag on the lawn with the sprinklers on, just take a moment to gaze at the stars.  As usual, my plan is to start small, lest I try to over-achieve at summer.  I’m not talking about epic summer activities that require planning and resources I don’t have.  I’m thinking modest, 10-minute celebrations of the season.  A quilt thrown out on a lawn, a Frisbee awkwardly tossed and rarely caught, sending us into a fit of giggles.

What does this have to do with the science of happiness, or childrearing?  It’s all about adding back “non-instrumental” moments in my life, about attending to the fact that my emotions are contagious, and when they are positive, they can be an incredibly powerful force for the good.  And it’s about amplifying our happiness by savoring life’s joys.

Summer can be a permanent state in our lives if we allow it to be, independent of how foggy or humid it is, how much work we got done, or how much time we have.  We can find summer’s play wherever we are, whatever the season. It exists independent of the obstacles that prevent us from taking pleasure in it; summer happens whether we enjoy it or not.  This week, I’m gonna love it.

Christine Carter, Ph.D.*, is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She is the author of “RAISIN G HAPPIN ESS: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents.” She teaches online happiness classes that help parents bring more joy into their own lives and the lives of their children, and she writes an award-winning blog for *Greater Good* (www.greatergoodparents.org).“Sign up now with promotional code ActiveKids, and get $25 off the cost of the class!”