Parenting has changed since I was on the receiving end of the care-giving. My two brothers and I had a stay-at-home mom for most of our childhood, meaning that during summer vacations we stayed at home every day, all summer long. Our mother’s daily tasks of ironing bed sheets, maintaining an impossibly high standard of cleanliness, and preparing a home-cooked meal every evening kept her busy, and we didn’t often go anywhere other than the grocery store and the public library. Sometimes we’d go to a movie or to the mall, and on the weekends when my father was home, we’d go to a park to play frisbee-golf or hike.
As a kid in the 1980’s, summer days were virtually endless and had very few restrictions. Gone were the early mornings rushing around, the interminable hours sitting at a desk, and afternoons spent doing homework. The hot and humid (hello, Cincinnati!) days were spent bicycling with my brothers or roller skating for hours by myself. Afternoons were usually spent in the neighbor’s pool, running through the sprinkler, or being chased around the yard playing a game we’d made up with a couple of friends. Evenings were for riding on the lawn mower with my dad at the wheel, running races with my brothers, and catching lightning bugs. My parents sat outside and talked to the neighbors late into the night. Bed times were more relaxed and I fell asleep to the sound of whirling fan blades.
Summer vacation in the 2010’s looks a lot different for my young son. The biggest difference is that it’s not a true vacation like I experienced. For my son, the daily grind doesn’t change much whether it’s summer or winter. Sure, there are seasonal changes and some different activities in the evenings and on weekends, but for the most part, weekdays look the same day in and day out – get up early, spend all day playing and learning at daycare, get picked up around 5:30. The structure of his days looks virtually the same throughout the year because my days are the same year-round.
Most unfortunately, my work schedule does not allow for summer vacations, spring breaks, or even the highly anticipated snow days. Therefore, my son is also denied these rights of childhood and it kind of breaks my heart. I would love to give him the vintage summer vacation experience that I had as a child, but I know that I won’t be able to pay my mortgage long past these hot summer months without a job.
While his days aren’t the laid back free-for-all that mine were, he does get a summer vacation from the public school that he attends, and his daycare runs a summer camp type program during this time. He has scheduled field trips, playtime at the park, water days, and visits from Kona Ice. When I pick him up from daycare, we usually go to the pool or he rides his bike up and down the sidewalk while I cut the grass, pull weeds, and water the flowers and garden. We take walks around the neighborhood and eat ice cream cones. I take him to King’s Island and he participates in the summer reading program at the public library. In short, we try to take full advantage of the weather and activities of the season.
I consciously make an effort to create a summertime that has a bit more fun and magic than other times of the year. I find that it is easier to slow down in the summer – no lunches to pack and no homework! The days are longer, the sun is brighter, and the outdoor pools are open! I make this effort for my sweet boy because I want him to be as nostalgic about his childhood as I am about mine. Summertime memories are the centerpiece of my childhood nostalgia, and I have a feeling that my son’s summer days will be the one’s I remember most fondly when he is all grown up.
My son will never know the carefree summer days that I knew as a child, but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. Different isn’t always better or worse; it’s simply different. My life as a mother is very different than my mother’s was thirty years ago, so it goes without saying that my son’s childhood will be different from my own.
Now, I am off to enjoy some delectable ice cream with my son. What memories do you have of your childhood summer vacations? What do you do to make summertime special for your kid(s)?