With the school year in its final stretch, I’m more than ready to be done with it all…the homework, the early bedtimes, the rushed mornings to get out the door and to school on time with all the necessary papers, permission slips, library books and lunch boxes.
I can’t wait for the unstructuredness of summer. I dream of having enough time to make something more exciting than a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I plot driving no further than the pool, the park or the grocery store. I fantasize about relaxing evenings in the backyard, eating watermelon instead of trying to explain to my 6-year-old that he must go to bed even though the sun is still up!
Before I know it, school has adjourned, and we begin our first unstructured week of summer. We sleep late, we swim every day and eat ham sandwiches for dinner. We take long walks every evening.
I love having my children home. I’m thankful to be home with them, experiencing their childhood.
By the middle of the second week, though, I start hearing those words: “I’m bored, I don’t have anything to do, I don’t have anyone to play with.”
Not that there isn’t plenty to do. Keeping kids busy during the summer is big business. There is a plethora of summer programs geared to keep our offspring swimming, t-balling, cooking, camping, acting, painting, gardening, Bible schooling, singing and learning.
Of course, don’t wait until June to enroll. At one local YMCA in early April, parents lined up before 7 a.m. to get their kids into a summer program. I know parents whose children are signed up for something virtually every week of the summer. One friend last year signed up her kids for six Vacation Bible School programs!
Excuse me, but aren’t we missing the point of summer vacation? Aren’t we supposed to want to spend time with our children at home or on a two-week trip somewhere? What about those lazy days of summer? I spent enough hours in my car this year to warrant four new tires and a new set of brakes; I don’t want to spend the entire summer driving my children all over town.
OK, I admit, I have enrolled my son for one week at Camp El Har, one week of Vacation Bible School and t-ball. He and his two younger brothers also will spend one day a week learning crafts and gymnastics at a nearby school. I’m not so disillusioned to believe they want to spend their entire summer at home, with me.
But is it getting to the point that we’re afraid our children might be a little bored? We cram so much into their little brains during the school year, add to that extra-curricular activities, and that leaves little time for them to just hang out and be kids.
Do they really need all that constant stimulation? So they might get a little bored…didn’t we? Who knows what kind of creativity will develop if children are left to entertain themselves.
My oldest, who is 6, received his first authentic tool set this year, complete with hand saw. One of his favorite activities is to create objects d’art with collected wood scraps. So far, he has made an airplane launcher and a “food slide”, whatever that is. He has spent literally hours sawing, nailing and sanding his creations.
My two younger sons are happy with a large appliance box, which can automatically be transformed into an airplane or space shuttle, or any of a number of old Halloween costumes.
Of course, I realize younger children are probably more easily entertained, so I asked a friend with pre-adolescent children what they are doing this summer.
Her 12-year-old son loves to roller blade and has formed a team to play roller hockey. The mothers trade off supervising the weekly games. Her 10-year-old daughter wants to organize a neighborhood reading club, complete with dues and prizes.
These were her children’s ideas. She just helped them organize and follow through with their plans. These kids learned how to make some fun on their own. What a great way to instill creativity, entrepreneurship and self confidence!
We’re moving to a new home soon, and for the first time, we’ll be able to enjoy the shade of a large pecan tree. One of our summer projects is for Dad to build a tree house, with the boys’ help, of course.
We’re also planning lots of cooking, baking, bubble-blowing, sidewalk art contests, summer book-making, sleep-overs and backyard picnics, mosquitos permitting.
There are only 11 weeks of summer vacation. I want to have some fun with my kids before they’re 16 and waving goodbye as they back out of the driveway in my new car.
Because who knows? Summer vacation as we knew it may soon be a thing of the past.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.