Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summer = Play Clothes

While reading a chat board for professionals in my line of work I came across a plea by a grandmother. Her granddaughter is heading into 6th grade and the girl’s mother is at her wit's end trying to figure out ways to keep the girl entertained this summer vacation. The mom has a home-based business so she is home, but working. The granddaughter “just wants to go somewhere and shop or have someone over to spend the night, all involve spending money.” Granny was asking for creative ideas on activities an 11-year-old would like.

I’ve got a great idea for her. GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY. I don’t know who I’m more annoyed at, the mother for being at her wit’s end over this no-brainer, or the meddling grandmother for not conking her own daughter on the head for not thinking of this.

What were you doing the summer you were 11? I was playing kickball with my neighbor in the backyard. We were riding bikes. Then we came inside for 20 seconds to guzzle a quart of Kool-Aid before heading back outside to build forts (I can prove this event, I have a picture of it sitting on my desk). We came home when the street lights came on. We were filthy and tired. I thought this was the norm. Am I wrong?

Both of my parents always worked, but they were able to stagger their shifts so we kids weren’t left alone. I suppose a lot of my friends had stay-at-home moms, but this girl in question has a mom who will be home, so she won’t be unsupervised. What’s wrong with telling an 11-year-old to go rediscover what is surely a roomful of neglected toys? Get the kid a library card and tell her she will be reading this summer. Art projects, yard work, these are all basic things all of my friends did. Nobody “entertained” us! Not that I don’t remember whining occasionally “Mom! I’m booooorrrrred!” to which I was then given an appealing choice of washing the dishes, folding laundry, or, if I was lucky I was handed a box of construction paper and told, “Here, make something.” Our choice was either entertain ourselves, or accept a list of chores.

This child is old enough to fix her own lunch, put on her own Band-Aids, and understand the boundaries of how far in the neighborhood she is allowed to go. When did summer vacation become such a hassle to contend with?

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