Last night as we were gathered down at the end of our driveway, our camping chairs in a row, my five year old looked over at me and said, “This is the greatest 4th of July ever.” And he meant it. (And it was true!)

My  husband and I didn’t have big plans this year. The plans we had made fell through, and we spent a few hours trying to come up with a new game-plan. We checked into all of the area celebrations and fireworks displays, contemplated inviting people over, and even thought about driving to the beach. All we wanted was a special day for our kids.

Then, our day got busy, and  I forgot to use my flag dishes, didn’t serve a single side dish out of my patriotic or bbq themed servingware, and ran out of time before I could make those adorable 4th of July strawberries I saw on 4th (3 of 4)Pinterest. It slipped my mind to make my traditional USA JELL-O mold, there was no homemade lemonade in one of those gorgeous glass jar dispensers (not that I have one!), and I didn’t pot any red, white, or blue flowers to make my outdoors more festive.

I had intentions for doing all of those things. Heck, I pinned them (which is the first stop on the road to good intentions..)Yet, none of these decorations and ideas made it out of the gate. I was too busy…..playing with my kids.

Our time wasn’t about making guests feel comfortable or being a good hostess. It wasn’t about me creating a gorgeous flag cake so I could have a nice pinnable blog post. There weren’t any red, white, and blue paper lanterns or sparkly aluminum stars. I didn’t even get out the box of 4th of July decorations this year.  I was too distracted to do those things…..I was hanging on the words of my babies.

I was watching my 16 month old explore the backyard – toddling around in her little bare feet, happily discovering the nature and toys around her. I was delighting in the giggles and happy squeals of my little boy as he did his 4th (2 of 4)first sparkler. I was watching my two older children excitedly sort through and organize our little bags of fireworks, eagerly anticipating our night-time “show.” I was exchanging glances with my husband over how unbelievably cute and adorable our kids are, sharing the smiles that we both knew meant, “We are so darned lucky.” We were together as a family, and that was all that mattered.

Kids don’t need fancy. My  kids could care less if I have a hurricane vase filled with red, white, and blue dried beans or if I had frames with patriotic subway art on the mantel. It wasn’t about what I served on their plates or the way our home looked that made yesterday special – it was a day spent simply being in the moment with our kids that set it apart.

My kids don’t care what the family next door is doing, or what anyone else is posting about on social media. Life isn’t a competition for kids. Our time and attention were enough. We spent the day doing things we enjoy simply because we enjoy them. It wasn’t about making the world’s most perfect pie so those on Instagram could ooh and ahh. It wasn’t about creating a patriotic table-scape so I could earn some elusive “World’s Most Over-Achieving Mom” badge. It was a simple. It wasn’t “pinnable.” It was us.

4th (1 of 2)The simple hamburger and watermelon dinner? An absolute feast. Root beer floats around the dining room table sharing old stories? First class entertainment. Mom’s M&M cookies? A simple treat we all love – no need for something fancy. And the little fireworks show of ours at the end of the driveway? I’m pretty sure that rivaled the televised fireworks for our kids. We were together. We were present. We weren’t checking our phones, creating something simply to blog about it, or trying to outdo anyone. We spent the day as a family, and that was all that mattered.

Those ideas, decorations, and activities I’d wanted to do are all good things. For me, I often find myself getting caught up in the “extras” instead of the moments. I become so focused on the decorated 4th (2 of 2)cookies, the wreath on the door, and the thematic worksheets leading up to the event that I miss the heart of the matter. I forget that there are real-life moments happening all around me, as I busily focus on creating the perfect little craft or making 4th (1 of 4)thematic cupcakes. I find myself doing, creating, cleaning, and making so many things FOR my family, that I miss my family. I concentrate on what is good, and miss what is best.

My son was right. Yesterday was awesome, and perhaps the best 4th of July I’ve had in many years. In the sweet simplicity of a family day, I found meaning. The perfect day we’re all chasing is right in front of us….all the time. We need to stop trying to create it, and recognize that it’s right there in front of us….in the form of our families and the time we spend with them.