Why I’m throwing out the bucket.


The past few weeks have been a bustle in our home. As we learn a new way to eat, the kids have been hanging with friends instead of hanging with us at doctor’s appointments.

I thought it was better that way, until last week my son didn’t want me to leave for my regular work time. His reaction was uncharacteristic — he has always been a bold and brave kid who would happily send me packing when I dropped him off for camps or programs.

And so I knew something was wrong. I knew we had gotten off track.


I’ve spent the past week looking at our rhythm. I’m a big fan of reinventing rhythm each season. (Not reinventing, really, but that has such a ring to it — reassessing, maybe?)

We are all craving routine again, which is only a part of the reason that I have decided to toss the bucket, so to speak.

Can we talk about the phrase “bucket list,” for a minute?

Hate it. Hate. IT.

I never saw the Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson movie, because I knew at least one old man would die and it would follow me for weeks.  We sensitive types must protect ourselves from such things — swelling music and stories of redemption and, you know, sadness.

But let’s face it — the term “bucket list” comes from the idea of someone “kicking the bucket.”

What a morbid way to spend a summer.

No, instead we are going to gently slide into a new routine — Library on Mondays, seeing friends on Tuesdays, adventures on Wednesdays, art and cooking projects on Thursdays and errands and housework on Fridays.

We're giving 'chores sticks' a try.
We’re giving ‘chore sticks’ a try.

I’ve decided that my plan to work on chores (or as I like to call them, “life skills”) this summer stands.

Last year we spent 3 months working on making a morning checklist a reality, and it has become automatic, ingrained for all of us — it saves us on the mornings we have to be places early. (I don’t love those mornings.)

So yes, we will be having more slow mornings at home. We’ll have fewer days when things are scripted and planned, and yet a touchstone for each day — a goal at least.

My heart kind of breaks for those mamas who try to do it all during the summer, but I understand their ambitions. I would want to do it all too if summer was all I had.

(I know. I know. Don’t compare, but the very idea breaks my heart right now to think about — sending my kids away when it feels a little like I’m just getting them back.)

But I think that’s where that drive comes from, isn’t it? The Facebook meme-inspired countdown of days until your kids are old and grown?

Ugh. More sensitive old-man bucket thoughts. Too much for my soul.

So no. There’s none of that here. We’ll continue to spend our days together no matter the season, no matter the weather.

I have spent plenty of time these past few weeks feeling overwhelmed, a little depressed, and worried I was not doing enough for my kids because I was trying to be there for my husband.

Thank goodness I have fall and winter. Thank goodness I have spring, summer and next year too, to make it all OK again.

14 thoughts on “Why I’m throwing out the bucket.

  1. I was just today thinking about a summer bucket list and finding I didn’t like that word as well. My oldest son reminded me last year what that phrase means and I quickly found myself trying to change my thinking about making one. So, I decided to talk to the kiddos and just come up with a few things we would really like to do this summer. That’s it. No lofty goals and expectations to be met, and the disappointment if it doesn’t happen.Just some memories for this season. Thank you so much for the reminder of how blessed I am to have fall and winter to enjoy with them.
    I wish you all the best with your husbands health and changes for your family.

    • Hi Bronwyn! So chore sticks are an idea I found online somewhere, where you write down chores on popsicle sticks and have the kids choose some each day. My kids choose two each day, and our chores include things like feeding pets, wiping down the kitchen table, wiping down the bathroom, starting a load of laundry, dusting a room, emptying the dishwasher, etc. So far, so good. It’s been 4 days😉

      • Thank you, sounds like a great idea, will try it out in our house! Can I ask you a question please?🙂. We are still doing school, it’s winter here in New Zealand and the last few weeks have seen me and my ten year old son really banging heads together, he says he loves homeschooling but every time it’s time for “work” like Maths he just spins out and we end up fighting. I feel it’s so important to keep up with his maths as he wants to be an engineer and will need to go to university one day. It is so upsetting as we are usually so close. I am realising that I just want to enjoy my children, not have our relationship changed by homeschool expectations/have to’s/must do’s and pressure. I even started thinking that it would be better if they went back to school and leave the teaching to the school and being a mama to me. But none of us want that really. But I am dangerously close to throwing in the traditional maths and spelling and getting much more eclectic, unschooly! Which I never thought I would say. But how do you explain irrationalise that to family and maybe to myself, will my boys really end up ok?!!
        Praying for you and your family, that this summer will be a time of rest, healing and restoration. X

      • Hi Bronwyn! This is partially how we came to more of an unschooling approach. I was seeing the frustration and that it was creating a divide, rather than keeping our family close. But we didn’t get to the point we’re at all at once. I began to slowly pull back. Math was a sticking point with my son too. One day I said, “OK, let’s take a break,” and the relief on his face was huge. I looked for other ways to do math. He loves rare and interesting coins, so we did quite a bit with money. We bought him a calculator watch. I tried to take the pressure off of math for a while, until he started finding places in his life where he needed it and then there wasn’t that frustration. I think you’re right — I think you have to figure out how to be OK with the idea. (As far as family goes — I don’t really explain or justify.) But feeling good about homeschooling is important to the people doing it. I would say take baby steps and find a comfort level. Breaks are OK. For spelling, maybe buy your son a journal or get him a pen pal. Begin this as an experiment — “We’re going to see how this goes.” You can always return to previous methods if it doesn’t feel right. Mostly, kids are so amazing. They want to learn. You kind of can’t stop them! Have you heard about “strewing?” The idea of putting things in their path? I love this book on the topic: http://www.amazon.com/Art-Strewing-Instilling-Learning-Curiosity-ebook/dp/B00D8SM6EO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402753813&sr=8-1&keywords=the+art+of+strewing. Good luck!🙂

  2. I agree with throwing out the bucket. It’s nice to have that bit of structure, yet I like the slower pace of summer. My daughters and I sat for a good two hours today just discussing , laughing and singing.
    I’m sending you healing thoughts during this time of transition. Those are hard, but you are amazing and will come out the other side all the wiser.

  3. I’m staring to hate that term too! I’ve been feeling like the bucket list stuff is just another way to compete and see how you measure up. Like, I can say oh,I’m going to do all these things this summer, what about you, huh, huh?!?!?! No buckets here.
    We are just going to enjoy and learn and see where the days take us. Just like every other day in the year, but less scheduled stuff for sure. 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this! These past several weeks since we’ve been finished with school for the year I have been contimplating making a “bucket list” but just have not gotten around to it. I was feeling a little guilty like I should do more but we’re all just enjoying being together & doing life sans “school time”. Anyways super encouraging! Thanks again for sharing🙂

  5. I hate that term too! We are having no plans this summer. NONE. I have been making myself bananas with guilt about being unable to keep to them! Wheee! Yay, summer!

  6. I hate bucket lists too! They seem to be full of stuff you would either do without the list anyway or stuff you don’t really want to do but feel you ‘should’ do!

  7. Just a quick thought for the commenter above, Bron…have you looked into Teaching Textbooks? We had a similar issue at our house, but now she loves doing it, as I am not her teacher, there is a digital teacher.

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