Is Summer Really That Great?
Birth2Work Staff, mother
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(Push play on the Beach Boys … now.)
Ah, summer. There’s an endless summer trope that revels in freedom from the restrictions of school, the expectations of parents, and the anxieties of peer relations. People often look back and wax nostalgic about (the record needle slides off the record player here) … what exactly? I couldn’t tell you!
I apparently have “summer amnesia.” At just about 40 years old now, I have a
near–zero memory of most of what I did all day during my childhood summers. I can tell you specifics about my school days in every grade. But summer days? I haven’t a clue. The only thing I remember is sports camp.
I drank the Kool-Aid … Well, Cactus Cooler
During the year, I was an academically accomplished, musical and dramatic, student government cabinet member. I did horseback riding, aikido, roller-skating, gymnastics, dance, and painting classes.
Yet, despite my taller-than-average stature, I did not do sports. So it stands to reason that my participation, for several summers of my youth, in a two-week sports camp is the only thing I recall.
I’m sure it was because it was nearby, all–day, and would take me and my younger sister that Mom signed us up. Presumably she saw some merit in the development of our sporting nature, too. (I can’t be sure.)
But day in, day out, we showed up for a rotating day of swimming, tennis, and some sort of indoor team sport. It was loud, full of zinc-based sunscreen, and generally not my preferred skill set. I tolerated the day, though, because afterward there was a vending machine. Hello, old friend.
Without knowing it at the time, my gloriously cold, orange and pineapple flavored friend—Cactus Cooler—was a mostly southern California distributed soda that would become mine (and my sister’s) flavor of summer.
Not until I was an adult did it dawn on me that I could buy the soda on my own. I thought it was exclusively available at sports camp much the way many of us thought ginger ale was only available on airplanes.
During the school year, we sprouted alfalfa for our sandwiches (🤢) and thought granola with carob chips was just as good as chocolate (it’s not)(🤮). But during the summer, the glorious rush of sugar, food coloring, and carbonation of that soda made the heat and chlorine and zinc oxide all worth it.
What Did I Learn?
I remember an occasional week-long camp here and there. (I know kids on the East Coast often go to camp for seven to eight weeks at a time. That’s generally not a West Coast thing.) And once I got older, I got internships and/or jobs. But summer was not a time of family road trips, camping, or travel abroad for us. My regular enrichment classes were all on hiatus. So what the heck was I doing?!?
My best guess: nothing.
Well, nothing of astounding merit anyway. I was probably doing my Lite–Brite at some younger age.
The original Lite-Brite
I remember we had this old injury prone gem:
The original Slip’N Slide
I loved focusing on crafting projects and playing music.
During the summer there was absolutely nothing of note to push, pull, or prod me along. I was so (happily) busy during the year that I was in constant motion. I was constantly measuring my achievements. My summer metrics, though, were dismal. My swimming, tennis, and sporting capacity was marginally advanced. I guzzled Cactus Cooler with my sister until Mom picked us up.
And, I suppose that’s the point. There’s scientific study focused on boredom now. There are conferences that discuss it, scales to quantify it, TED talks about it, and articles (such as this one) written about it. But, when I was a kid, I think I just survived it.
The Birth2Work perspective has always been about parents “leading” their children down the path to adult success. Just maybe, in the summer, it’s OK for parents to nudge their kids sideways—off the path—and let them catch their breath.
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