As the school year wraps up, one question is on every parent’s lips: “What summer camps are your kids doing this year?”
The question is understandable, for many families, summer camps aren’t just about the activities, they also serve as much needed child care.
But as we finalize (or begin) our vacation plans and summer activities, let me make a push for at least a few lazy summer days. Just pause for a moment and think of what summer meant to you as a child. Did it mean hours in a hot car being shuttled back-and-forth between activities? Did you spend your summers being “enriched”? Or when you think of your childhood summers does it conjure up memories of diving off the dock, popsicles in the backyard and bare feet on hot pavement?
For me, growing up I spent one week each summer at my grandparents’ house. I might have been young, but I was living on old people’s time – and I loved it. In the mornings before it got too hot, my grandmother and I picked beans in the backyard and plucked bright red tomatoes from the straight from the vines into bowls. We hung clothes out on the line, securing them in place with wooden clothes pins.
Once our morning “chores” were done, we got down to brass tacks: doing the Washington Post crossword puzzle and watching The People’s Court. To this day, nothing says summer to me more than hearing the distinctive thrum of that opening music and “The litigants for our next case are on their way into the court room.”
If it sounds slow and staid, it was. In the afternoons we shelled the beans from wooden rocking chairs. In the evenings we went on long, muggy walks and ate big bowlfuls of ice cream. I read book after book and played with my grandfather’s model railroad trains. All of this was interspersed with games of mini golf and trips to the park where we feed the ducks long-accumulated crusts of stale bread.
It wasn’t glitzy or fast-paced or even child-centered. But to me it was like chicken noodle soup when you’re sick or hot cocoa after a snow storm: It provided an assured comforting warmth.
When I look back on it now, it seems idyllic. The President was securing the end of the Cold War and Judge Wapner was meting out justice in 30 minutes. No one tried to spend that week “educating” me or “advancing” me, at least not in any formal way. I was given the gift of being a care-free child.
My own children’s summer will be different. They will go to a few summer camps. On days when they are home, there will be some school work, particularly in math given what we now know about the “summer learning slide.”
But there will be plenty of opportunities for digging in the dirt, lounging in the sun (with the proper SPF, of course) and experiencing the benefits of being bored. If we get a little crazy we might even watch a few old episodes of The People’s Court. Sometimes all it takes is a little no-nonsense pounding of the gavel to set the world right.