Summertime, for me, is very nostalgic. I am a water baby, born in July, and I love celebrating America on the 4th!
All of my childhood memories of summers growing up are of the above. As one of five children, my mom stopped working when it financially made more sense for her to be home with us, and frankly, that’s what my parents wanted for their family. We did have the luxury of spending long days at the beach, as sending us off to camp all summer long was not an option with five kids. That came when we were older and more focused on specific interests.
In my youth, I dreamed of going away to sleepaway camp! That didn’t happen until 8th grade when I attended a volleyball camp in the Poconos. After that, I begged to go away to college when I was just a junior in high school.
The type of summer I had as a child is precisely what I long for my kids to enjoy. How do we make this possible? It seems that everywhere I turn, we are being influenced to enroll our kids in every activity imaginable.
As the years pass, we think the kids will self-entertain, but with everyone having phones, we find ourselves in more of a frustrating conundrum. Keeping your kids motivated to stay active and off their phones, the very technology that is supposed to promote self-motivation is a considerable challenge.
Going through this summer in real-time with two boys aged 10 and 14 led me to wonder what I would be doing this summer, given the access to technology, if I were a child again. I would probably be babysitting much like I did starting at age 12 in the late 80s, then taking long bike rides with my sister and neighboring friends. We would use our GPS to find new trails and parks while ordering food to our location (why not use our resources?).
But astonishingly, when I think about what we accomplished during our summers, our freedoms, and our independence, it is exactly the type of summer myself and my sons’ friends’ parents are trying to push our kids to have. So why aren’t they doing so? We need to reclaim the summertime of the past.
I am not sure we all take the time to reflect on the summers we used to have and that many aspects of them are attainable, even though times are undoubtedly different. While commuting to work this week, I watched people of all ages roll through stop signs in their cars. While my older son bikes much further distances than his younger brother, the conversations around aggressive and distracted driving must be revisited often. Beyond this, with technology, shouldn’t we be more comfortable, not less, with allowing our children to venture out? Is it because, with vast media types, we are more cognizant of the “bad” in the world?
How do we bridge the gap between allowing our kids to have more unscheduled summer fun and keeping them safe? It is a balance, especially for a family with two working parents. My kids are each in a few camps this summer, including my older son as a counselor in training.