Our culture is obsessed with bucket lists. Ever since that movie starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson came out in 2007, Americans young and old have been fixated with creating and crossing items off these life-goal “to-do” lists. My daughters are no exception.
Before school was even dismissed, they put together a four-page summer bucket list that contained more than 50 “must-do” items. I figured I was in trouble as I read the first entry: “Eat ice cream at least once a week.” It got worse: “Eat cake.” “Eat a yummy pie.” “Make cupcakes and eat them right away.” “Eat lots of sweets.” “Make homemade chocolate chip cookies.” “Go to Sweet Frog.” Gulp. This list, I thought, is going to be nothing but trouble.
I have such mixed feelings about outlining family activities on a pre-determined, posted checklist. While the list-maker in me likes to have organized goals and gets the same thrill as anyone in checking off a completed item, the adventurer in me wants to be more spontaneous in summer – and in life. Have surprises. Have lazy afternoons. Take an extra day up north, just because we can. Throw the list in the bonfire and have hotdogs and s’mores for dinner.
But there were some surprisingly helpful items in girls’ bucket list: “Take a day to pick up trash.” “Learn to drive the riding lawnmower.” “Send letter to big brother at boot camp.”
And a couple of the to-do items turned out to be beneficial to me. They wanted to “Eat a new or foreign food,” of which I wanted no part. But then my older daughter came grocery shopping with me and begged me to buy a nopales cactus leaf. (I had to Google how to prepare it.) Turns out, cactus is delicious! Who knew?
Another time, as they begged for a tie-dye kit and white T-shirts, I rolled my eyes and envisioned the gigantic mess I would inevitably be cleaning up. To the contrary, they actually made some adorable shirts and kept themselves busy while I tackled another project. The mess was manageable.
Some of their items we were going to do anyway, like go-carting, going to Bay Beach and grilling out. Others I don’t see happening this year, such as “learn tai chi,” “sleep in a box” or “stay outside for one entire day.” And a few of the more simplistic items caught me off guard and warmed my heart. They want to run through sprinklers, build a sandcastle, catch fireflies and have a lemonade stand. It was like reading my childhood all over again.
Perhaps the trick, now that summer is winding down, is for me to spontaneously choose a yet-to-be-completed item off their list and surprise them by setting up the slip-n-slide or having a game night. Maybe the next time we are at the library, I can pick up an instructional tai chi DVD. Maybe that’s the ticket to getting them to check off the last item on their list: “Have the best summer ever to rock the world!”