When I was a kid, summer break meant three glorious months of unstructured freedom. From sunrise to sunset, I’d ride my bike, pick plums and cherries off our fruit trees, play kickball and super spy with the neighborhood kids, read, write stories, make up rollerskating routines to the Thriller soundtrack in my garage, catch ladybugs and caterpillars, and go to the high school pool with friends. Where I lived, almost all of the parents worked full-time so we had older kids, uncles, aunts, and grandparents as babysitters. Nobody I knew went away to summer sleepover camps and I don’t even think day camps existed.
Oh, how I loved summer breaks. They seemed to last forever. They were delicious. They are still, to this day, the foundation upon which I draw from for daily creativity, AKA work.
Those perfect bubblegum pop memories are what I wanted to be able to create for my own kids this summer. I know now how brief childhood really is and my kids deserve to squeeze every last drop of childhood they can.
Parents say it’s not as easy to do these days, but let’s face it: the only limitations are ones we (the supposed responsible adults) create and send out as ripples of “this is how it must be done” to the parenting world around us.
Why can’t we hire a sitter and let our kids play instead of trotting them to camp after camp, sport after sport?
Why are we parents so proud to announce how exhausted the kids are at the end of each day and how “busy” the kids are kept at camps?
Here’s my biggest question: when did it become a parenting crime to allow kids to get bored?
Do you know what happens when kids get bored and you grant them the power to choose their activities? Scandalous things happen, and I can tell you from experience. My kids are home with me 24/7 this year. No camps, no sports (save one swimming lesson for 30 minutes once a week). I’m exposing myself for the under-scheduling mom that I am in a world where over-scheduling kids is applauded, but here are some of the unnatural things my kids have done this summer.
I often find my kids doing THIS when left to their own devices, and they were so engrossed in scandalous reading they didn’t even notice me snapping a few pictures:
They’ve read so many books this summer, maybe it is scandalous. I’m the enabler, allowing them to pick out more books than usual at our weekly trip to the library since they’ve been blazing through them so fast this summer.
Sometimes I’d find my kids working in their workbooks and writing in their journals completely on their own accord. It’s really embarrassing.
Once when we came home from the store after replenishing our workbook & teaching supplies, my son actually begged me to let him play with his new multiplication math flashcards. Yeah, I thought that was weird too, but I agreed anyway.
Most of the time, my kids have been engaged in self-directed imaginative play. My daughter’s imagination runs wild when, in her room or in our backyard, she crafts colorful characters with interesting voices and wild storylines using random objects around her.
My son’s eagle eye and engineering mind have built impressive, detailed LEGO vehicles and settings for his LEGO characters. Over the years I have been trying to capture snapshots of each of his creations, but I just can’t keep up this summer. Here’s one where he re-fashioned a Lego City fire boat into a Star Wars Clone & Shock Trooper vehicle:
The most scandalous part about an unscheduled summer? Their sibling affections have grown tenfold. These two were inseparable before, but now the best buds are finishing each other’s sentences, cracking the other up into uncontrollable fits of laughter without a word exchanged between the two, and excitedly taking turns playing one’s made-up summer game after another.
Yep, I’ve allowed my children to run amuck this summer. They’re forced to decide how to use their time versus having their schedule dictated to them. Sure, I’ve also planned activities and adventures here and there for my kids. And I am admittedly that annoying mom who tries to weave in some sort of educational component to each outing (watching my son voluntarily grab the native plant guide out of my hands & excitedly search for them during hikes is one of my favorite sneaky science lessons). It’s not all free play and loosey goosey… but it’s as much as I can manage.
With three weeks left before school starts, I have to say that I really don’t care what other parents think. I am really proud that my kids have had a mostly unscheduled summer. One in which the “I’m bored! What should I do?” was quickly replaced by imaginative, amazing childish fun and soon a phrase never again uttered all together. A summer in which they were allowed to learn some great life skills and responsibilities simply by being kids.
The most scandalous quote of them all comes from my son: “This has been the best week of all the summers ever.” Me: “Ever?” Him: “E-V-E-R!!!!!”
Enjoy being a kid, kid. That’s what summers are for, right?
Would love your thoughts on over-scheduled kids these days. Please feel free to leave a comment below and share your thoughts on this subject!
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