Summer break time again, the kids have finished the school year, and all the PTA moms are sending their kids to summer camps or have elaborate detailed itineraries planned to keep their children entertained for maximum neural stimulation. Normally I am right in there with them making lists of activities, paying for expensive themed camps, planning play dates with friends, and all the other things a “good” mom should do for summer break. A hectic school year capped with a hectic summer to “maximize” every moment, or at least that’s the theory.
This year I say, “No more”. I am taking it back to the 70/80’s style when we had no plans and kids entertained themselves outside. Unfair water fights with older siblings, neighborhood bike rides, building forts, reading books. No schedules or commitments. A retro summer break of free play!
The electronics have taken over so much that kids no longer seem to know how to entertain themselves. They need a chance to be bored and to figure out how to fix it on their own. To that end there will only be TV allowed in the mornings before I wake up, so I can make up for all the lost sleep in the school year — I am on summer break too and no one wants the sleep deprived mombie trying to break up the inevitable close quarter sibling fights all day long. No video games, computers, or tablets whatsoever.
When we told our kids the plan they went into a deep depression for the first day. We were “ruining” their summer and their lives, this is the “worst” summer break ever, how can we be so mean, bla bla bla. I allowed them to sob in their rooms for the first day, moping around sulking and mourning their lost dreams of becoming electronics-induced zombies by playing video games 12 hours a day for two months. By day two they had snapped out of it and the process of entertaining themselves had begun. In past years they’ve complained about how summer feels so short; this way perhaps it will feel longer to them (especially if they are bored a lot).
A week into the retro summer break and they’ve begun pulling out dusty board games from the closet, doing jigsaw puzzles, they read books, draw pictures, ride their bikes around the neighborhood — their entertainment is their responsibility, not mine. If they want to go to a friend’s house to play, I make my kids call them to set it up and then let me know what they planned. I’ll still take them swimming at the local public pool, the mall movie theater does free kid movies which I’ll take them to if they want, and weekends may have planned family outings, but for the most part I’m tossing aside the itinerary and structured scheduled play dates in favor of spontaneity and freedom (within certain legal and safety bounds of course).
Each day is a surprise and the pressure is off as we all just decompress from the hectic school year. If they want to stay in their PJs all day baking cookies, so be it. My expectation is that they will learn to connect with life outside of structured school, organized sports and video games — just like summer was when we were kids.
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