BY MARY MALLOY
We look forward to summer for so many reasons - the gorgeous weather, the recreation, the vacations, the beach, and the delicious barbecued food - and for the kids, school's out! Time to say goodbye to schoolmates and get report cards. Day one of my kid's vacation went something like this:
12 noon - I (mom) take the kids for a special end-of-the-school-year fast-food lunch treat. What ensued:
"I don't want to wait on line!" "I hate this seat!" "Do we have to order from the 99-cent menu again?" "Do you know these things can kill you?"
Ahh, gratitude. They love me, I know it!
1:30 p.m. - Home again. "I'm bored!" "Can we go to Disneyworld?" "Can we have a pool party?" "She hit me!" "I'm hungreeeeee..."
Needless to say, by late afternoon I was panicking. I want so much to enjoy the summer with my children, but, due to financial and other circumstances, they are not "camp" kids. I realized that when school was in session, the days were more regimented, and I looked forward to seeing them at 3:00 p.m. The last few weeks, I have been thinking and saying, "What am I going to do with them?" There are some day trips planned for the summer, but the bulk of the time we'll be staying home. What can I plan? What will entertain them?
Then I realized I was falling into the same trap as usual - the need for parents to keep their kids active all the time, to the point of feeling like a recreation director on a cruise ship.
My children have always excelled in art and other creative endeavors by using their own imaginations and the resources around them - paper, paint, sticks, leaves, wood. They are not always given a plan or a goal, but do what looks and feels right - and a masterpiece usually results. What does this have to do with summertime? Well, I remember my summers as a child - we played ball outdoors, watched an ant carry food for hours at a time, we got dirty, and it was our job to find something to do - not our parents' job. As a matter of fact, if we even mentioned the fact that we were bored, we were handed a broom and told to go clean out the garage. A trip to the beach was a very special time, not a daily sojourn. And a vacation to Disneyworld? Wow, that would make the whole summer, the highlight of our childhood summers!
Instead, we ran in the sprinkler, made mud pies, made good friends, and we learned how to entertain ourselves by turning mundane things into a game. Can our kids do that? Does summer have to come with a game plan and instructions? Do our children see shapes of Mickey Mouse and castles when they lay back and enjoy the cumulus clouds? Do they sell lemonades to their neighbors ("Don't do near anyone's car, honey!" "Get the right change...")
It may all be for naught - you can take the trip to Orlando, shoot the rapids in Delaware, spend money on the finest camp, "beach it" till you drop - and when the kids are asked in September, "What did you do this summer?" you know what they'll say ---
Mary Malloy is a published writer, having written humorous, ongoing columns in local newspapers including The East Rockaway Observer,The Five Towns Forum, Nassau Tribune, Nassau Community Newspaper Group, & Long Island Woman periodical. She recently married her childhood sweetheart and is the mother of five children, ages 12 to 30 --and the grandmother of a lively toddler name Thomas. She experiences every day life by coping, juggling and living on (and loving) Long Island, New York and sharing the humor and the ironies of life with others.