It’s 11:18 a.m. on August 1 and if I were to call home and ask (and by some MIRACLE someone answered the phone) I would probably learn that Lauren has not been out of her room yet. It’s more than likely that she’s not even been out of her bed, where she is either: 1.) lying on a bare (and now dirty) mattress gorging on YouTube shows while towels mold on the floor and cats leave hair on the “clean” clothes sitting in baskets to be put away, or 2.) sleeping because she was up half the night watching YouTube shows.
Every May, I’m filled with optimism about the things my kids will accomplish over summer. This year, I even made a list in my bullet journal.
You may notice that nothing is checked off the list. Because they have done none of this.
They did attend the camps listed but the summer swim team that I signed Lauren up for was a bit of a bust thanks to a broken something or other that meant three weeks of no practice, much to my lazy girl’s delight.
What they have done is a lot of this:
And Kelly’s done some of this:
You might notice there are no books in these pictures and lots of screens (in the photo where Lauren is eating, she’s watching TV). I know they’ve not been using the desktop PC in my office to teach themselves to type, brush up on algebra, or write a book. Lauren uses it to watch Netflix….hours and hours of Neflix (She has discovered The Office, which…I mean, can I fault her for binging on that?)
I leave them to-do lists every day. I could add “practice cursive writing” or “do an online touch typing lesson,” but they’ll have a thousand excuses why they didn’t get to it.
I’ve given up.
And, you know what? I don’t care. Because it’s not a bad thing to be bored. It’s not a bad thing to have hours of unsupervised and unscheduled time to yourself. It’s not a bad thing to sleep in until noon and spend the rest of your day watching Season 3 of The Office.
While there are at least 1,000 more productive, active, and engaging things I’d RATHER they be doing, summer vacation is temporary. The freedom of the teen years—old enough to be home, too young to work—is temporary. This sleeping-in, laying-around, staying-up-all-night-building-Minecraft-worlds, and doing virtually nothing educational or productive is temporary.
And, it’s OK. They’ll be fine. Seriously.
I spent most of my summers screwing around in the Wintergreen Gorge, fighting with my brother, reading for hours on end, and watching an average of 10 hours of television a day (TV was big in the ’80s, kids). Most days I ate Cap’n Crunch for breakfast and microwave popcorn for lunch. And, I turned out just fine.
It’s tempting for parents today to continually push their kids to do, be, learn, achieve, and make the most of every minute, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to not do that to them. To let them have their summer. To let them enjoy the reprieve from the over-scheduled, chaotic, hurry-up-we-HAVE-to-go life that will begin again at the end of this month when school/cross-country/swim starts and life returns to “normal.”
Yesterday morning, I was leaving for work at 6:45 a.m. and Lauren came bouncing through the kitchen (I have no idea why she was up that early…possibly up all night?) and walked out back to swing in the cool morning as the sun rose behind her.
It took me back to my own long, lazy summer vacations when entire days and weeks lay before me to do with whatever I wanted (provided I got my “chores” done, which is the same for my kids).
That feeling of utter freedom is not something you ever truly experience again once you enter the workforce. (Teachers/professors excepted.)
I think it’s worth preserving.
About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”