So I’m writing out the checks like they are going out of style. Summer piano lessons, summer swim lessons, summer tennis lessons, summer art class, summer drama club, summer soccer camp. I’m justifying all this layout of cash by promising myself that I appreciate the opportunities that this area offers and that this is a great time to introduce the kids to things they can try and maybe learn to love for a lifetime.
Who am I kidding? This is summer vacation, isn’t it? Who really gets the vacation if I’m still on a schedule and if I’m spending these glorious hot summer days, sweltering in some parking lot waiting to shuttle my kids to the next fun scheduled activity?
And whose vacation is this anyway? My kids are checking the calendar, hovering between excitement and dread, anticipating that some friends they know will be there and dreading that the time spent on the tennis court will mostly teach them to hate standing on hot asphalt at noon on a humid summer day in Northern Wisconsin.
Who am I kidding?!
For the last three years I have been really good about limiting this kind of scheduling. My kids hate mornings. They love to stay up late, run to the neighbor’s house for tag, come home and make s’mores on the perpetual bonfire and then leave the yard with flashlights to play some more. They don’t want to wake up at the crack of dawn and head to soccer camp. And I don’t want to shuttle them there, half dressed, my hair a mess, clearly looking like I’m in need of coffee and thank goodness, able to slip into a pair of sandals so that I don’t have to wrestle through the drawers looking for matching socks for the drive to the neighborhood park for canoeing class.
I thought this was summer vacation!
This year, as usual, I have to force myself to stop and listen to the kids and stop scheduling some sanity time for myself by booking them into activities.
Yes, I admit, I THINK that I am getting time to myself by signing them up for things, but what I’m really getting is cranky kids and a lot of laundry and a need to buy convenience food and other bribery things to feed them while they ride to the next activity and refuel their little selves. And I get to keep track of the dirty towels, the cleats, the water bottle and the carpool schedule.
So recently I sat down and really thought about where we live, our lifestyle and what the kids like. I realized that although living in a rural area instead of a subdivision has always had it’s drawbacks, this year we somehow struck gold.
You see, behind us (well, along the path, over the fence, through the yard, around the neighbors’ newly planted pines, and across the back road) lives a neighbor with a girl the same age as my daughter and a trampoline. Saved!
And down the path, across the newly cut barbed wire fence, under the scrub tree, around the fire pit, and up the hill is another neighbor who has two boys — one the same age as mine and one a bit older — and some legos, some makeshift swords and a mom who makes fresh cookies every morning.
Across the yard, over the fallen fence, down the path, around the vegetable garden and up past the above-ground pool is where the kids all have found each other. They are playing on swing sets, making up games, picking up sticks for weapons to use against imaginary enemies and taking time to run, jump, and explore the bit of nature that has gone unclaimed by mowers and lawn tractors.
I’ve got kids calling day and night to get together with mine. All they want is some cookies and crackers to take out to the fort they just built, and OK, sometimes they want a band aid or to refill the water gun, but mostly, they just want freedom to run and to be told to come home when it is dark.
So I rip up the checks, throw the registration forms in the garbage, invite the cousins to come and stay for a week and yes, I admit, I keep the swim lessons and the drama camp on the schedule. But I’m thinking, this is going to be the best of summers, a real vacation. No more running, no more getting up early to drive somewhere to arrive at some time specific activity. And just maybe this will be a real summer vacation.
For this summer, my kids are going to play, for free, in the backyard.
(They won’t be bored, right? Is this going to work? Should I start digging in the garbage can right now for those forms…?) What are your kids doing for summer vacation?
About Annita Wozniak
Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at annitawoz.wordpress.com