Chacos column: How to have an unforgettable summer |

Chacos column: How to have an unforgettable summer

Andrea Chacos

I yearn to have meaningful moments with my family, especially when we can just focus on fun. With effort and innovation, I’ve been able to deliver in the summer months. Sometimes I have to cobble together daily activities and dish them out as once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Other times I’ve found ways to have unique opportunities that leave indelible marks. This summer I’m stumped.

First, acknowledge and honor the budget

The bar was reset to “low” 14 years ago when I had my first child. We started with modest family vacations visiting my parents on the east coast. My husband and I would board an airplane with a car seat, stroller, a breast pump, food, formula and various other heavy equipment we deemed necessary as first-time parent travelers. This was thrilling and different.

Over the years, when visiting my family on the east, we’d go to the zoo, play in the park, or go to the mall to ride in the glass elevators. Once we took the train into Manhattan and spent most of the day sitting in taxis and looking at the tall buildings. They attended local day camps and went to story time at the local library. For a few years, visiting my parents was easy, and my kids didn’t require too much, as long as I was up for the long, sweaty plane ride.

After four grandchildren, my parents knew the only way to keep their Lladró collection intact and their expensive art smudge-free, was to rent a beach house for a couple of weeks and let the grandkids run wild near the ocean. Every August three families would descend on each other, with dietary demands and diapers in tow. Sand in every orifice, a few political debates, and a nasty case of head lice were small prices to pay for summers of memories and lobster dinners.

I was in complete charge of the planning and execution of summertime during this time of my family’s development. My young children didn’t get their opinions taken into account because they just needed safe places to run, climb, swim, sleep and eat. I made sure to drag my family to every rickety carnival, state fair, mini golf course, waterslide and bowling alley within a 100-mile radius just to keep the fun-factor high.

Next, try something unique

As my children got older, I decided to tackle bigger trips that would still fit within the budget. I wanted to expose all of us to different types of adventures and do them together. We spent one summer in Central America learning to surf and live with cockroaches. Another summer was spent touring the pacific northwest in a small camper. The kids were malleable, traveled easily, and loved spending time with their parents. They agreed to try anything as long as an ice-cream cone was attached to the back end of the activity.

Remember it’s about quality time

This year, the rules changed on me. I can put a fully-stocked ice cream truck on the back end of any activity, and I would still be met with a collective, “No!” from my children. Nowadays, each kid wants independence and lobbies for their own summer plan. They don’t want to do all their activities together as a family.

As I try to sync calendars with extended family and cater to my children’s wishes and growing selves, I’m slowly realizing that our sacred summers of extended, uninterrupted time may become increasingly challenging to execute.

Instead of epic and grand, the next two months will have to be about short and sweet. When my kids finally want to spend some time with me, I will be ready. I will have to put down my phone, turn off my computer, and be with my children that are growing up way too fast. As long as I’m present, I don’t think they really care what we do. But if they let me have my way, I’m still going to find some fun for us this summer.

Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair. Andrea can be reached at

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