Saturday, July 19, 2008

Those Lazy Summer Days

Every summer, school vacation presents problems for parents: how to keep the kids busy and entertained for two months. When I was a kid, this was never a problem. As soon as we woke up in the morning, we were outside, knocking on the doors of friends' houses, running under summer skies throughout the days. I can't remember anyone planning a single activity for us, our imaginations filled the days that seem to last forever and yet were so brief.

Bur for kids today, it's very different. Summers must be planned, activities found, rides sorted out and of course, money plunked down to pay for it all. Being able to stay home and experience summer freedom isn't what it used to be. Since most kids aren't home in the summer, there's little to do in an empty neighborhood.

This year I discovered what seemed to be a perfect solution - the Parks Program. All of the town's parks are staffed with counselors who will guide your young ones through a summer of fun and activities and it's all free. This sounded ideal as the neighborhood park is a mere two or three streets away and the ages served are 6-14, a range inclusive of both the children. Moreover, the elder can keep an eye on the younger.

During their April vacation I was persuaded to allow The Girl and her friend take the The Boy to the park. They had a raucous good time - playing, swinging, sunning and buying junk food from the ice cream truck. They went every day and vowed to spend all Saturdays in this manner. Although they never actually went to the park again, I still thought itsounded like the perfect plan.

As with any perfect plan, it went wrong before it began. The elder, being a 14 year old girl, had no interest whatsoever in going to the park, let alone watching a younger brother. She was bribed into participation with promises of payment, but soon even the prospect of spending money was not enough to rouse her from her bed to walk the three blocks.

Soon, the younger realized that the counselors don't insist on participation in games and that they have an "open door" policy, which meant he could leave at any time. The first time he decided to exercise this right was a day when clouds lowered heavily and there was an imminent threat of rain and thunder. Having kept a close eye on the weather, I set out to pick him up only to find him already making his way home, having left upon feeling the first tiny droplet of rain.

Soon his reasons to leave were such things as boredom, he forgot his favorite Pokemon card, he hit his thumb on a tree, etc. He began to find reasons not to go before he even got there and turned back halfway.

But never fear, The Boy has found the perfect activity to keep him busy all summer. At the top of the street (the hill, as he calls it), he has found a depression in the ground under a tree. He likes to sit in "the hole" and... well, I don't know what else he does. But when I call to him and ask what he's doing, he simply yells back "I am up the hill". Further inquiry reveals that he is "sitting in the hole".

Sure he will spend time riding his scooter, catching bugs, and just running for the sake of running, but it's nice to know that he will spend some time as I remember spending time on those long summer days. Sitting in quiet contemplation from a shady spot, perfectly situated to observe the world and its wonders - a walking stick on the tree bark, a dragon in the clouds flying through the sky - the wonders that we once saw on a summer afternoon. They are still there, though we no longer see them through the busy-ness of life. But sometimes, through the eyes of a child, we experience them once again.

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