It's summer! This will be obvious to those of you who had normal school dismissals early in June, but for those of us who just finished the educational year, it does feel like a sudden release. And a welcome one. But even with an intense year behind her, my teen pondered, "What am I going to do all summer?"
Her statement wasn't one of peevishness, but with something more like bewilderment at the unlimited choices of Free Time. It's an issue that parents can take with a bit of annoyance. After all, didn't we run out of our houses at the first opportunity not to return until dinner? Why are our kids so quick to cry boredom?
Here's my theory. Today's kids and teens are impaired in making choices for what to do with their free time because they have so little practice doing so. My suburban kids have a pretty scheduled life with school, homework, and activities - plus family visits and friend outings. And I don't consider us particularly an overscheduled clan. But in the school year, they have so little free time that they never need move beyond movies, video games, and Internet. They don't really learn to make the choices that we had growing up - whose house to go to, what fields to explore, which direction to bike. So when facing an open period of choices, it can be somewhat daunting.
Some parents approach this problem with more scheduling - camps, classes, swim team, trips to fill every day. I prefer a more moderate approach. A week or two of camp for each girl in their area of interest. Plenty of trips to the beach, which double as our family visits. But mostly I want to embrace the openness, the choices, the boredom - because that's where the magic happens. That said, there are steps that can take some of the overwhelming feel out of the freedom.
I'm a big fan of public library summer reading programs because they give many kids the structure and goals they need, applied to something they love to do. Knowing that they have a form to fill with five, ten, fifteen books is sometimes just enough to get the kids to pick up a book, and a little prize doesn't hurt either. We're trying something new this summer too. We're each picking a selection of five to ten new-to-us books that we want to read over the summer. They'll be on a special shelf so that when we have reading time, none of us have to go to our comfort books out of laziness. Read something new this summer.
Terry covered this so well with her description of a summer writing journal that is FUN. We'll be doing this in our home. I'll add that my teen mentioned that she wanted to write a book over the break, and then she asked me if I hadn't been writing a book myself. I admitted that I had put it on hold when things had gotten stressful over the spring. "Well, then we can write our books together this summer!" she stated. Gulp. Busted. So I guess I'll be working on my novel over the summer, but you don't have to be as ambitious. Try poetry, short stories, memories, songs, thoughts. Look through the old writing prompts at Reading Rockets or search for more online. Make time to write this summer.
Much of what I write, I do so in my head lazing back on the couch, waiting for tween's dance class to end, driving back from some event. In these quieter moments, the ideas flow for me. When was the last time you daydreamed? Let yourself and your kids get bored. Lay in the hammock, nap on the sofa, float in the pool, sit under a tree and see where your mind takes you. Maybe you'll become inspired to make a painting of the shades of green you notice looking up into the leaves. Maybe your child will decide to create a fairy house beside the tree trunk. Let rest be part of your summer and enjoy the results.