Come Summer

I may be imagining it but somehow it seems like the stakes in raising children are so much higher than they used to be. My parents were no slackers (in terms of education at least) but my brother and I spent long, languid summers at home, had absolutely no enrichment outside of formal school and certainly never discussed our feelings with anyone. It is debatable whether we turned out “okay” in the long run but you could say that we more or less found our way in the world.

Why is it necessary for me to read that latest book about raising children—especially when theories of child-rearing seem to shift as quickly as the earth in Northern California? Why must I spend so much money on enrichment classes? Why do I feel so much angst about whether my child is at the “right” school or whether I should have tried harder to get her in to that one particular program?

I think sometimes that the urgency of it all takes some of the joy out of parenting. It feels oddly competitive, weirdly Type-A, as if you’re always trying to keep up with the Joneses, the Sakamakis, the Khans and the Adichies.

Since late December I’ve been asked about my plans for my four and five-year-olds’ summer just about every week. And every time I get another note or call, all I feel is … resistance. Of course once summer begins and the class, program or camp is about to start, I will question myself a dozen times: should I have enrolled them, shelled out the money, sucked it up and chauffeured them back and forth for yet another one?

I hear about “the research” every week from my husband. The latest research says this. The latest research says that. I nod and do my best to process what has his drawers in a bunch this time. But somewhere in the back of my head, I wonder.

I think my kids are going to be ok. Better than ok. I think they will flourish. Not because we spent thousands of dollars we didn’t really have to send them to this school or that program. But because we loved them. And we loved each other. We spoke about service and compassion at the dinner table. We told them what they needed to do in order to fulfill their dreams. And we did our best to be happy people, to do the right thing.

I think what will make the biggest difference in the long-run will be the day-to-day intangibles that had nothing to do with how well we networked, how hard we worked our contacts, how much money we spent, and how furiously we drove to and fro.

Or at least I hope.

5 thoughts on “Come Summer

  1. My kids and I will be spending the summer eating popscicles, playing in the sand, and watching TV. They will go to preschool two afternoons a week, for my sanity. We may take some swimming lessons, if I get it together. I hate schedules, and I think my kids will suffer the consequences of that. We will wake up each morning, and decide what to make of the day. Sounds enriching to me.

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  2. I am very “behind the eight ball” when it comes to our summer plans. I just found an affordable boxing class for Mekhi once a week. I would love to put him in an animation/video game programming class I found but its $800/week, crazy! My “big plan” for the summer right now is to take them all to Smith Playground a lot cause it’s free and a ton of fun. Let’s here it for Smith!

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  3. My summer plan is that G is finally starting pre-school. He’s been waitlisted at the school we want, and rather than enroll him in a subpar school, we’ve waited it out. So, he will start for the summer session. I NEED him to be in a structured school environment so I’m excited. He’s been staying with his grandmother and its having a negative effect on his behavior. He’s become spoiled, undisciplined, and he refuses to listen to instructions without the threat of major consequences. Even at his gym class they have noticed a change in him. He doesn’t behave, focus, participate, anything.

    My summer plan is to get his lil narrow behind back in line!!

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  4. The baby is too young for the “summertime” to mean anything (although it means a heck of a lot to me!), so I haven’t had to start thinking about summer plans yet. I’m an A-type personality, and unlike Toya, I’m okay with a little scheduling here and there. Even now, I find my days with Baby are much better if they have a rhythm to them. So, I imagine I’ll be one of those parents who finds one or two structured events for my kids to do during the summer. Growing up, we were always enrolled in the local library’s “summer reading program,” and I still have very fond memories of that very simple experience. We went to the library for story time, signed up for a “reading competition” to see who could read the most books, and did other structured activities at the library; lovely. As I got a little older, summer also included music programs and athletic activities. But it also included a lot of running around, riding bikes, and chasing down the ice-cream truck. I support resisting the need to be in competition with others about the summer plans, but I do support using it as a time to let your kids do things they might not otherwise get a chance to do during the school year.

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    1. I don’t like schedules, but my life is better with them versus without them. So we’ll definitely be doing some scheduled swimming lessons, and library reading time sounds good too. The schedule is really good for the kids too, cause they look forward to it.

      And Benee, I know what you mean about the grandparents. I was just in Philly this weekend, and even though I was with them, they were a bit unruly. I also think their behavior was worse because I didn’t have my usual arsenal of punishments available – toy jail, effective time outs, etc. Tomorrow when it’s back to business they are going to be in for a rude awakening!

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