Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Let Summer Be for Kid Stuff

Summer break, for us, is a little less than 3 weeks away. (There's some funky school days math with final exams, promotion ceremonies, class parties, etc. that confuse the count, especially for a mom with 4 kids in 3 different schools, but anyway...)  I know some of you lucky folks are already sleeping in and eating cereal in front the TV.  Or could be. But for many kids and families, summer will be just as hectic with summer activities - camp, tutoring, sports - as it is during the school year.

I'm truly the slacker mom when it comes to summer activity signup. I've filled out no registration forms yet. None. Zero. I did take my daughter to summer basketball tryouts last week.  And I'll get around to signing the kids up for summer swim team this week because practice starts, well, tomorrow.  And that's about all I have on the radar right now.

It's not that I don't think kids need stuff to do over the summer. I just don't want to have an active role in all that they do in the summer.  Yes, this is the season when I start to lament about how much time they spend in the house, on video games and texting their friends, rather than playing kickball in the street and building forts and hanging out with friends at the neighborhood pool.  I will complain a million times about having to take them somewhere rather than them hopping on their bikes and wandering off.  Selfishly, I admit, I'd like a break from chaffering and scheduling.

I also want to give them a break from the hard thinking.  No doubt, I will encourage, suggest, require that they keep up with some academics over these sunny months with math workbooks and a reading log and frequent library visits. But I will not require them to do the academic camps and the "what you want to be when you grow up" camps unless they really really want to. I have seen so many ads for camps for leadership, scientific research, writing a first novel, engineering, computer programming, career exploration, music production, math advancement - all to give your kid "an edge" or prepare them for their career. (And yes, my daughter did go to an engineering camp last summer, so I've fallen into the lure of making her a girl-genius, too.)  I'd love for them to spend part of their days drawing on the sidewalk with chalk or coloring a picture or building a cardboard go-cart.  We put so much emphasis on career planning for the 6-year old, we barely give the kids time to enjoy being a kid and all the fun stuff that goes along with that finite period of life.  I don't imagine it's documented anywhere, but I'm sure the lessons learned from negotiating who's "it," playing by the rules, and finding your way around the neighborhood will come in handy as an adult.

So here's to the other parents who haven't signed up for summer camp yet - academic, sports, or otherwise - and are feeling guilty. At least you're not alone. Maybe our kids can play together.

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