Growing up in Redwood Shores, my summers were spent riding bikes along the bay, running through the sprinklers on the lawn, roller skating, jimmying pinball machines for quarters at Marine World with my sister, and watching old reruns of Dobie Gillis and McHale’s Navy on UHF. Let’s say that I wasn’t exactly pushed intellectually during my summer break.
But, I do have very fond memories of all the silly things I did to fill my hours and days from June to September each year like booking reservations under fake names for hotel rooms in Anaheim using toll-free numbers from my mom’s AAA Guide, trying to perform surgery on my Barbies with scissors and Scotch tape, and of course, attempting to break the Guinness record for pogo-sticking (I didn’t). The things you can find to do when you have nothing but a young creative mind and lots of time on your hands.
My friends and I wandered freely amongst the marshes and sloughs during the daylight hours without a care in the world and always sans sunscreen. It was the perfect backdrop for us to make believe, create, adventure, and play. There was no set schedule other than we needed to be back by 5:00 or so to eat dinner.
Certainly, there weren’t camps, summer school, or other organized activities. …Just two and a half months of freedom to make up for the hours of sitting in boring classrooms during the school year. And, we loved it!
Now that I’m a mom, I struggle with memories of my freestyle summers and the current expectations for parents to have their kids continuously participating in organized summer activities. I have an internal dialog perpetually running in my head about this issue.
Should I splash out on camps and classes? Or, should I just let them “veg out” and watch cartoons? Are they old enough to play outside by themselves?
There is one certainty in all of this. Moms who raised children in the 1970s weren’t pondering this stuff. They weren’t second guessing what they should be doing. They simply went about their business, and let their kids be kids.
Were they better or worse mothers for not booking up their kids’ schedules? Were they neglectful? Or, were they really setting the groundwork for a generation of creative and independent thinkers?
So, this summer I’m experimenting a bit with this whole concept of no organized activities. I admit it’s partially a cost-saving strategy on my part. But, I’m trying to determine if I really need to buy into this concept that my kids need karate lessons for discipline and robot building camps to keep up with today’s technology. Maybe, they’ll be happier and better adjusted grown-ups one day if they can just do what they want now and one day reflect back on their summers as months full of free time when they were able to simply unwind, be themselves, and make up their own activities with their own imaginations.
So far, they’re having fun, and I’m saving money. There’s a lot of play time with Legos, swimming, digging in the backyard for rocks, and drawing pictures that they are taping on the walls of their rooms. We’re in the kitchen trying new recipes and even watching some old reruns of the Brady Bunch.
They might not be learning how to polish their karate chops this summer, but at least, they’re having fun and getting some much needed down time to just be kids.
Song of the Day: