Back to school! Monday, parents, is the first day of school around my parts. Where did the summer go? For the first time since I took the primary job of Decent Human Being Production, the summer months seemed to go quickly. I can hardly believe it: this year I’ve got a first, second, and fourth grader. And I’m sorry, teachers, but since I’m that kind of parent, I’m sending them back to you fatter and duller after summer slacking. Hey. At least I’m honest.
No, I’m not necessarily proud of it. But I was not the parent that forced enrichment on my children over the summer. I was the parent who said maybe cupcakes were a good idea for dinner. I was the parent who changed children from one pair of pajamas into the next. I was the parent who probably single-handedly kept Netflix stock afloat. I confess to taking the path of least resistance out of sheer self defense this summer. When you have more kids than parents, what can I say? It’s a shift from man to zone defense. You can only do so much.
I did. Largely, I allowed my children to be feral over the summer months. No shirt, no shoes, no problem. And I confess that freely. Sleep in until noon? I only wish they would have. Enforce a bedtime? Why? Who cares if hair gets brushed if you’re not going anywhere? Entire days spent in swimwear. Why not? A My Little Pony marathon…all. Darn. Day. That’s how we rolled. Or rather, sat inert. Any learning that happened was purely accidental.
I know, I know…there are so many sanctimommies out there right now, horrified. Yes, you made your kids study two hours a day. Your precious darlings learned two languages while participating in three sports, all the while earning Scout badges for their volunteer work at the homeless shelter and completing a full chore sheet daily. What kind of horrible, neglectful mother am I? Or my favorite: why did I have children if I didn’t want to raise them properly? True confession time: you all make me tired. And I’m all out of damns to give.
Here’s my philosophy; hashtag it #myunpopularidea if you must. Kids aren’t allowed to be kids very much any more. College planning starts in preschool. Competition is stiff. It actually will, as it turns out, go down on your permanent record. There’s not only the pressure of grades and tests and sports but of extracurriculars. Kids rush from class to class to 15 minutes of recess to gobble down lunch in 20. Not to mention the social crucible they’re being ground up in. I’m going to have to stop writing about it; I’m getting winded.
Maybe it’s an archaic idea, but I love the idea of my kids being able to be free of efforting over the summer. Free to slay video game villians, squash bugs, poke frogs, get sweaty, ride bikes, swim, sleep, hang with friends. Being an adult is not for the feint of heart. So why are we shortening childhood? Why must every experience our children have be orchestrated by adults or institutions? Most importantly, why are there high heeled shoes available for six year old girls? But I digress.
So, judge me if you must. But I’m hoping my kids will enjoy some wonderful memories of when the world stopped for them to just relax and enjoy being kids for just a little while. Of being truly responsibility free and taken care of. Soon enough, the rat race awaits them along with homework, early hours, late nights, lessons, practice, and jobs. Three months of vacation during the summer will be but a distant dream.
One day, for better or for worse, they’ll be punching time cards and have more responsibility than they ever dreamed they could shoulder. This summer? Is not that summer. Enjoy, my little sloths. There’s plenty of time to firm up that grey matter between September and next May. A little gift from me to to you: may you look back on your kid summers and remember what it’s like to be completely and totally off the clock. You’re welcome.