I remember that when I was a kid, summer seemed to last forever. I couldn’t wait for the school year to end because I knew that those endless days were just around the corner. Those last few weeks of the school year were agony – the weather had already turned and we would sit in our desks perspiring (schools didn’t have air conditioning in the stone age) and pretending that we were dutifully attending to our studies, but really we were dreaming of the summer’s promise.
I recall afternoons spent shooting hoops on the Bauer’s driveway or playing baseball with all the other neighborhood kids in the empty lot across the street – the ball diamond was a well worn path in the weedy grass. Sometimes we would cross the train tracks to go across the big highway (two lanes really, but to us it seemed tantamount to crossing a national border) to buy a few pieces of candy, some Zots, Pop Rocks, Root Beer Barrels, with the change we had managed to hoard from Dad’s pockets. Aside from Little League and swimming lessons, my three brothers and I didn’t really get a lot done over the summer. Or at least it seemed that way. I did manage to catch you-know-what from my Mom once when I went fishing all day and forgot about my piano lesson. But as I look back upon my childhood summers I do realize that they were a valuable component of my upbringing. I now appreciate that I was given the opportunity of free time, time that I could spend exploring, playing, engaging in what I found value in, even as a kid. I learned a lot about myself. And I learned a lot about how to occupy my free time without being told what to do.
I worry that we are depriving our children this same opportunity when we overschedule them. I hear ads on the radio offering academic day camps – so kids won’t forget all the precious knowledge that has been pumped into them over the school year. (Not to disparage, but when’s the last time you used the quadratic equation?) I think it’s important to maintain a sense of balance in our childrens’ summer schedules. They really do need some unscheduled time over the summer. Sometimes a kid just needs to be a kid.
So as summer approaches, I ask you to keep in mind, and think back to your own childhoods, what you remember most fondly about your summers growing up. And to give your kids some free time.