A Catholic Family Summer, Part II: An Invitation to Wonder

Enjoy Part II of our three-part summer blog series, dedicated to curated suggestions for making the most out of the months of break. You can read Part I, ‘Nurturing a Love for Reading’ linked here.


“What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.”

– G.K. Chesterton

Perhaps the vacation or beach trip has passed. Perhaps the early summer excitement begins to be replaced with voices clamoring, “I’m bored” or “I have nothing to do.”  Or perhaps your summer has been so packed that it’s been hard to sit still, as one activity races after the other. This is my invitation to you to embrace slowness this summer. In a world that grabs and squanders our attention, slow days lead us to reclaim our children’s and our own attention. These slow, ordinary summer days are precious and full of opportunities to create unique, unexpected, wonder-filled memories that draw your family together.

5 Ways to Embrace Slowness this Summer

1. Olden Days of Summer.

“Joseph the Carpenter” by Georges de la Tour (1642), depicting St. Joseph working by candlelight with the child Jesus.

Long ago, a summer night was not lit up by screens or bright light bulbs, but instead the room was filled by the warmth of candlelight.  Choose a night during the week to immerse your family in the olden days. As the sun begins to set, commit to a night completely free of all electric lights, TV, or phones. Light candles. Read books by candlelight. Eat dessert by candlelight. Brush your teeth by candlelight. It might be uncomfortable and boring at first. Embrace the boredom. Boredom is the stepping stone to creativity. See what your imaginations can come up with. Let conversations slow and wander. See what happens..

2. A Neighborly Surprise.

You don’t have to wait for a new neighbor to move in next door to surprise them with the gift of your time and attention. Whether you’re baking your favorite cookies or have just gotten on the sourdough train. Whether your first batch of carrots have successfully grown and you have a few to spare. Or perhaps your favorite flower has bloomed and you’ve got a small bouquet, waiting to brighten someone’s day. Share the wealth with a neighbor who lives alone or one you haven’t gotten to know yet. Open up the door to a burst of light on an ordinary and mundane day.

“And the Symbol of Welcome is Light” by Norman Rockwell (1920)

3. Sunset Soirée.

When I first brought my husband home to spend the summer with my family, I was giddy to share our favorite summer evening routine with him. In the summertime, we eat almost every dinner outside. You might need to make some snacks to suppress hunger for an hour or two as the weather cools on a hot day in Atlanta. Set the table with a tablecloth that you don’t get a chance to use often, use flowers or even a houseplant as a centerpiece. Grab your unused pitchers and fill them up with water for the meal. Turn on Frank Sinatra Cocktail Hour on Spotify. Whatever you were planning on serving for dinner, serve it outside. I promise it will be worth your time.

4. Family Story Hour.

My side hurt from laughing so hard as my mom read aloud all the voices in Hank the Cowdog. The chapter would end and we would beg for more. Now looking back, I see what a gift it is when children beg for more stories. My two-year-old brings me book after book. It’s easy to make excuses for all the things we need to get done. But why not read story after story, chapter after chapter? It’s a gift that will guard our children’s attention in a world that snatches, distracts, and hurries their little minds. When you read stories aloud as a family, you capture their attention–you reclaim their imaginations. Sit down after dinner with the family, open a book, and let their minds (and your mind too!) become immersed in another world. Here are a few I recommend to start, a chapter or two a night: Where the Red Fern Grows, The Indian in the Cupboard, and Anne of Green Gables.

5. Sleepy Stargazing.

Some of my favorite memories as a child were when on summer evenings, my parents let us grab sleeping bags, lie down on the back porch, and fall asleep under the stars. Now to be honest, we didn’t always make it through the night before returning to the comforts of a cushioned mattress. But the memory of staring up at the speckled sky endures. Even if you just spend 30 minutes under the stars’ gaze, it will affect you and your children. Choose a night this week to let your kids stay up a bit later. This experience creates space to ponder the mystery of creation and to delight in wonder.

 

This is your invitation to slow down this summer. Make space for wonder—breathing room for mystery, creativity, and imagination. Don’t let man-made ‘wonders’ hurry your mind and steal your attention. In this sweet summertime, together with your family, reengage with what is real, true, and beautiful.

Mary Zuniga is the Classical Education Consultant at Holy Spirit Preparatory School.
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