Friday, May 22, 2009

A Childhood off the Grid

As summer approaches, I have a lot of conversations with my fellow moms and they go something like this:

Other Mom: What is JT going to do this summer?

Me: A whole lot of nothing.

I am a teacher and I don't work over the summer. I do get a lot of schoolwork done during that period because lessons don't write themselves. But I get that work done at home and on a relaxed schedule (read: no showers before noon), while my child hangs out and does the sort of things I did when I was a kid in the summer: he plays outside, he reads, he plays with his toys, he goes swimming, we spend hours at the local parks. And yes, he watches television. It's a kind of lather, rinse, and repeat method of relaxation that reaps all kinds of rewards.

Other Mom's response at this point falls into one of two categories: envy or horror at that many enrichment opportunities lost to my child as he skips Art Critic/Unusual-Sport-That-Will-Result-in-a-College-Scholarship/Post-Modern Literature Camp in favor of time spent doing nothing. That's right: Nothing. Horror mom isn't my kind of mom and so I ignore her while she feels smug, convinced that her kid won't have to worry about competition from mine when the time comes to apply for college.

Envious mom is envious either because of the money I save on camps (money I don't make in the first place because, duh, I'm a teacher) or she's envious because she'd like her kids to have a camp-free existence but that's not an option because she must work.

I know of many camps and summer activities for kids that are terrific, offering a combination of enrichment and relaxation that is good for the children. They are well-planned and staffed by caring folks who want to see the kids flourish. But those camps are mostly not available to families who lack upper-middle class incomes.

And they aren't on my agenda because I don't need them (which is good, because mostly I can't afford them). I find myself wondering about other kids, those whose parents can't afford costly camps. Will they get outside time in the summer? Will they have an opportunity to lie in the grass and stare at the sky? Or run in the sprinklers? How can this nation, a nation dependent on the creative labor our children must one day supply so that we can collect Social Security, give those children the experiences that will make them happy and healthy adults?

I don't have any answers here, but as summer beckons, I'll have plenty of time to think about what we can do for those children. For me, it's an incredible luxury to hang out at home with my boy. I know that the relaxed unplanned time will lend itself to all sorts of creativity and some interesting conversations. And that's a most happy development.

1 comment:

Nichole said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who bombards my kids with camps. It's so much work driving them all over the place. Plus, there is no way we could afford this stuff for our two school-aged kids. Some camps are $190 a week per person. Yikes! The kids always have a great summer anyway, reading, riding bikes, running through the sprinkler, etc. I never went to any camps as a kid and don't feel any worse off for it. Way to make the summer relaxing for you and the boy!!!

reellyc: my rapper name if I was a rapper (which I'm not)