My memories of summer as a child were…well…mostly uneventful. We drudged through week after week of school, counting the days down ‘til summer, and then our dreams finally became reality somewhere in the early weeks of June. About 2.2 days into said break, we were bored. But we combated our boredom with something called “imagination”. We caught lightening bugs, played ball with a myriad of ghost men, envisioned creatures out of clouds, licked honey suckle, perfected our wheelies, ate freeze pops, ran through sprinklers. I was fortunate to have a stay-at-home mom. But that didn’t stop her from finding all sorts of ways of doing her own thing and keeping us out of her hair. She sometimes put drinks on the back steps, maybe trays of hot dogs, so we would stay playing outside. I never saw it as neglect, just mom being mom, and us being kids (two population groups not normally supposed to do things together on hot summer days, in our opinions). We knew one thing quite clear- if we complained too much, she might actually find something for us to do.
By August, we were secretly and happily planning our school comeback.
Flash forward- summers aren’t quite like I remember. Somewhere along the way parents got shoved into a sea of scheduled events that make summers look a lot like….well, the rest of the year- on steroids. Basketball camp 2nd week of June, followed by soccer skills camp, followed by obligatory trips to the zoo and museums, followed by adventure camp, mixed in with band lessons, swim lessons and career readiness courses. Squeeze in a vacation, and voila, you’re exhausted and facing back-to-school shopping. How do you think your kids feel? No wonder when there actually IS a day of nothingness they have no idea what to do with it!
Parents- STOP THE MADNESS! Stop buying into the notion that if your little Johnny doesn’t partake in the $500/week [insert camp name here] camp that he will somehow be shunned from society and unprepared for adulthood! It’s hog wash, it’s nonsense, it actually robs your child of learning LIFE skills we all learned when we were actually BORED over summer break! We’ve made summer “break” look absolutely nothing like a break. Check this out for another mommy perspective.
Yesterday it hit me hard. Because I was frantically emailing the football coach about conditioning sessions, and the basketball coach about the summer league schedule, and the drum instructor about how-on-God’s-Earth I was going to fit in drum lessons, and in the midst of that chaos my son comes waltzing in with his best friend, both gushing about the 3 hour brain storming session they had regarding their tree house ambitions (one- we have no tree to support their plans and two- their design included measurements that have never existed in any lumber yard, ever). And it hit me- while I was busy measuring up with all the other parents (what would Susie think if I bailed on July’s basket weaving camp?), my son was busy combating boredom with creative genius!
Flashbacks swam in my head of my mother responding to our “I’m bored” rants with simple responses like “go play outside”. And guess what? We did. And we loved it. And we made memories, built friendships, solved problems, secretly and unconcsciously prepared for the world ahead. And there were no camps, no schedules, nothing but us and a back yard full of yet-to-be imagined wonderment. And now we are robbing our own children of that wonderment simply because we think we have to give them something better than what we had? Let me clue you in on a secret folks- what we had was better. Now put down the pen, close the calendar, and go ahead and tell them to go play outside. It’ll be ok.