Molly Cavanaugh (mug 2)

Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s Big Party Show in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Read more from Molly »

Every year, when school lets out and a whole summer of free time is laid out before us, it gives this agenda-minded mom a few panicked thoughts about “What are we going to do?!”

A friend suggested a few ideas, including a check list of things that need to be completed before either my son, Declan, or daughter, Mara, think of uttering the words “Can I play on my device?” So that first Monday of break, I posted the “Summer Screen Time Rules.” I figured it’s good to set their access parameters from the start.

When they get up in the morning, they can take a look at the bulletin board for a guide of daily expectations. It’s all easy stuff, but it’s things the kids would happily forget to complete before asking for permission to play video games. Now they know that if they read, play, do some chores and a few workbook assignments, they can start asking to get some screen time.

But that doesn’t really reflect the whimsy and adventure of summer vacation. So I turned to a project that has kept the kids and I entertained in years past — the Summer Bucket List.

In 2017, when I introduced the idea to the kids, Declan and Mara were 7 and 5 years old. Their requests were sweet, simple things like getting to paint, going to the pool and grabbing a sundae at the neighborhood ice cream shop.

A lot can and has changed since painting and popsicles were top of their dream activity inventory.

As the kids mature, so are their ideas of summer fun because when I asked them what they’d like to do before heading back to class, their list was — ahem — ambitious.

Mara, while noting it was late notice, requested we take a family trip to Hawaii. Declan made no mention of a time constraint when he chimed in that he wanted to go to a different island — Ireland. Specifically, Northern Ireland. If we want to get more precise, he’d like to visit Belfast.

Why does my 9-year-old boy want to go to the Emerald Isle? It’s not to visit family or explore the country his ancestors migrated from. No, he wants to go take in the Titanic Museum and see the shipyards where the doomed luxury ocean liner was built.

It appeared I needed to adjust their expectations. Sure, Hawaii and Ireland are bucket-list worthy. In fact, they’re more like life bucket list items. They’re places people want to go before they die — not before they start fourth and second grade. Sure, sometimes it might feel like school is “killing” them, but it’s only a figure of speech.

I reminded them that our summer list should be a little more locally-focused and that, in the past, they put going to the pool as a top priority. With that suggestion came a flood of ideas like having a friend sleep over and getting more chances to practice playing golf.

All of these met the quota for reasonable fun and did not involve any overseas travel. Please, no one tell Mara about girls weekends on the beach or inform Declan that Scotland is the birthplace of golf.

Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children and lives in Chicago. She writes weekly for

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