So, school’s out. Cranky, Whiny and Punch are loose for the summer. It’s great—truly. No more grueling classes from eight in the morning until three in the afternoon. No more sports teams. No more homework. No more 'school-night' curfew. The problem is, those were the only things that simultaneously kept the kids accounted for and out of my hair.
In a strange way, I dread summer. When other moms pass me in the grocery store and give me that Summer's here! Aren’t you sooooo happy? look, I give a weak smile and nod my tempered enthusiasm. I don’t dread summer because because my kids run off like a Jurassic Park raptor that has found a hole in the fence. I dread summer because summer makes me feel, well, inadequate.
Summer means you’re handed back all the responsibility you relinquished when your kids started school. I mean, seriously, when people ask you what you’ve planned for your kids for the summer, apparently making sure they get a meal at least once a day doesn’t cut it. Jeffrey’s doing Kumon, then he’s building huts in the rainforest before he heads to NASA for space camp. Impressive. And I’m left wondering, What the heck is a Kumon?
There are several schools of thought on how to approach a child’s summer itinerary. Regrettably, ‘hanging out’ is not one of them. I guess you could let them hang out, the way we hung out. You could, but you wouldn’t just be imagining the whispers: Her kids are hanging out this summer. Good luck getting them into an Ivy. Good luck, indeed.
So, the first and most popular option is dedicating your child’s summer to sports. Swim teams, tennis clinics, lacrosse camps, there’s no shortage of options. The problem is, most kids are not phenoms. All the coaching in the world won’t turn a Cutler into a Manning. Without that potential, summer sports programs are a lot like visiting the wineries: an overly long drive to spend a hot afternoon doing something you could have done in your yard.
Next up is continuing education, the tiger-mom concept that school goes all year long. Let me pause. If you have a child who is willing to take classes over the summer, I applaud you. The summer I tried to make Whiny and Punch take a reading course, I feared a violent outcome.
Then there’s camp. Camp is a phenomenal way for a kid to spend the summer. They are gone for three to eight weeks under the protective wing of several (hopefully) capable adults—hopefully being the operative word. Now, it’s absurd to keep your child from going to camp because of a firmly planted belief that no one can or will watch your child as vigilantly as you. That would be crazy. Let’s just say when your child sends you a letter explaining how he tipped a canoe, hit his head on a rock and no one realized he was missing until he waded into camp, be glad you’re on the other side of it.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know I need a plan. Even if my children are just hanging out this summer, I need an elitist, academic, politically correct way to describe it. Cranky is doing independent research on noncompetitive recreational and solar-influenced sedentary activities. Whiny is developing a first-world, non-nutritional calorie base. Punch is exploring observational athletics and streaming sports image transfer.
It doesn’t make a huge difference to me what they do this summer, as long as they are having fun. I just need an answer for when people stop me in the grocery store.