Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Summer without plans... aka... every other summer

Where my sons will be this summer. Hopefully, in better, less
rainy weather... this is not summer weather, but it sure is green out!
We’re about a week away from summer vacation, and like every other parent in America, I’ve been busy making summer plans for the boys. This is what it looks like: we have no summer plans for the boys.

No summer camps. No sports. No music. No languages. No robotics camps or maker groups. I’m not even trying to force them to do the reading program, like I do every year.
I told them one thing: one morning a week is mine. They are going to be forced to do some local outdoorsy thing involving biking a dirt trail, hiking, going to a reservoir to swim in water, ride their bikes the full path, something, anything, that gets them out of the place they are sure they want to be: Their room. The garage. The basement. The computer.

Both boys despise structured activities of any kind. They always have, with the exception of Turbo’s good 3-year-run of gymnastics. Soccer? No. Music? No. Drama? No. Chess? No. Field trips? No. Climbing? No. Wrestling? No.

So fine. They win. They get a summer doing what they’ve wanted to do for years. I know this is what they want, because every year they tell me it’s what they want to do. Stay home. Sleep in. Lounge. Be bored. Ride their bikes to 7-11. Whine about the heat. See matinee movies. Go to the local, overcrowded city pool. Wander around looking for other kids to play with. Complain about the pool. Draw. Flop about the house. Watch reruns. Go on a few long camping trips.

It’s not a bad summer. It’s every summer I ever had growing up, and I loved my summers, though I do remember being bored a lot. I’m not looking forward to the hours of bored-ness. It’s probably good for them, though, a bit of boredom. I’ll also admit it shows a lack of ambition for my sons’ future. They’re not learning anything useful! They’re not developing valuable skills! They might fall behind in school!

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t believe in half the crazy things most parents believe in. School days are long enough. Childhood is fleeting. Intensive sports before middle school sucks the joy out of weekends and ruins play time. Growing up is about exploring the world and their place in it. Finding an identity and something to strive for. It’s hard enough to do that without adding Mandarin classes or nightly practices because no really, the children so enjoy it…

They do have ambitions, though, my boys. Pure ambitions not placed on them by anyone other than themselves. Engineer. Professional YouTuber. Scientist who studies space (space scientist - astrophysicist? whatever). Director. Comedian.

I can hear the thoughts now - oh they have tons of summer camps for those! You can put them in a maker class, and they have camps for kids on how to make movies, and there are space camps and theater… except no, because I don’t want to crush the dreams of my structure-despising, free-thinking, independent-minded sons just as those dreams are beginning to take form. I could send them, could tell them this will teach them how to do all the things they want to do, but it’ll feel like work to them: assignments and projects and guidance and following rules can feel like work. I’d rather have them dream of it, play around with it in their heads, and experiment with it on their own time, as they do with their Lego and Hero Factory creations, their drawings, their writing, the storyboards they create without realizing they are storyboards, the notes about monsters and creatures and powers and the descriptions and drawings of islands and planets and environments - all the world-building that goes on late at night when they don’t know they’re world-building, the introductions to a future YouTube channel that gets practiced when no one’s around, the creation of an online persona… all these are more valuable and useful to the pursuit of their future dreams than a structured class that will teach them what they can easily learn later, when the desire is more fully formed.  

Summer will include a lot of the above, in between fits of boredom, biking, and playing in the creek. Maybe we’ll even paint their room.

And I can’t help it, but a small part of me thinks it’s going to be a great summer for us, precisely because of its lack of ambition.


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