Just like everyone else around my age group, I tend to sometimes look back at the summers of my youth and recall how endless they seemed to be. I can clearly recall the last day of school – impatiently running home to start the process of doing absolutely nothing. Sure, my parents had me do some activities during the summer, but for the most part, I was left to my own devices.
Both of my parents worked, and I grew up in a lake house in what used to be a small town. Our back yard was big, and the undeveloped areas beyond that yard were even bigger. I had a bike, and I rode it every day. We had a vegetable garden, which I learned to master in those harsh summer months.
One of the things about summer that I most dearly recall is that I always ended my summer break with some sort of wisdom, insight or experience. Though left to my own devices, my parents did not let me sit idly by, watching mindless TV shows and munching on chips all day in an air-conditioned room. They gave me jobs and duties, which I did, usually with some measure of reluctance. But the point is, I did them. And by doing those mundane tasks and chores, I found myself. I found out who I was, and others gained insight into my character. Did I do the job half-assed, or was it done right?
Summers also taught me to build friendships, and showed me how they can be broken down. I learned a lot about fending for myself, recognizing danger, and making moral choices. Summers defined me much more than did those droning days of public school.
Many things threaten to take away summer break from our kids these days. Electronic devices, which were not prevalent (read: non-existant) in my youth are now commonplace. Most kids these summers sit behind walls and play games or text message one another all day. Most kids are not given responsibilities or tasks. Most kids are not reprimanded for staying up past reasonable hours. Most kids do not have the time, nor the desire to find themselves. They do not develop their character. Instead, corporations and academia seeks to entrap these kids in the endless loop of desiring money and material things. Lazy parents, who don’t want to do that thing called parenting, drop off their kids at day-camps, sporting events, and other activities that expend energy but return little to nothing.
Reading over summer break is a thing of the past. Most kids don’t even own a book. Those that do can’t hold them in their hands. Instead, they strain to see the text on Kindles, iPads and other distracting gadgets. Before flipping to page two, they are responding to some cryptic text message.
If you are a parent, remind yourself that summers can be magical times for the development of your child. Don’t dump them off in summer camp just to get rid of them. Help them grow. Give them things to do. Let them experience danger and choices that might affect them. See how they react, and shape them. If you are not a parent and you are reading this, then put down the iDevice. Do something physical…it will strengthen your physical body and will provide an opportunity to develop your mental/spiritual body as well. Go out there and have a great summer!