I’ve been reading a lot recently about the comeback of the 70s summer: Unscheduled summer breaks forcing kids to use their creativity to fill their “I’m bored!” hours instead of having their parents fill their hours for them with $200/week camps.
Our unscheduled summer will be officially be held the week of August 17th, which is the only week this summer that I do not have filled with some sort of travel or insanely expensive camp for my kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love for my kids to have the same 70s summers that I had: Waking up late, eating an entire box of Frosted Flakes for breakfast then spending the day in the creek down the road filling up all my mom’s Tupperware with tadpoles (and then forgetting them in the garage until they turn into a biology experiment that you cannot unsee.) We would finally return home when Mrs. W would ring her cowbell signaling that it’s time for everyone to go home for dinner.
I love the idea of the 70s summer so much that last year I decided to try it for my kids: No camps, no schedules, just shove the kids out the front door in the morning and see them again when the (metaphorical) cow-bell rings for dinner.
Unfortunately, I discovered there are quite a few obstacles to having a 70s summer in 2015.
For one, kids have a lot more un-creative temptations at their disposal now. When your kids return home for dinner and you ask what they did all day, it’s unlikely that they’ll say, “We rode our bikes down to the creek and raced milkweed pods!” It’s more likely that they’ll say, “I went to Jack’s and played on the iPad while I watched him play games on the Nintendo for seven hours.”
There are also a lot more child-care complexities. As I’m sure happened in the 70s, inevitably, all the kids will end up at the cool house. In the 70s, that meant that some poor parent was stuck with all the neighborhood kids (but really, it’s their own darn fault for being the fun-parent with the cool house.) These days, a lot of our friends have nannies, (which automatically makes them the cool house). Unfortunately, I’m not willing to burden some poor nanny with an extra kid that they aren’t getting paid for. And since I’m equally unwilling to make my house entertaining enough to be the cool house, we’re at a stalemate.
We discovered that the biggest challenge is that it’s really hard to have a 70s summer when all your friends are having 2015 summers at camps or other scheduled activities. I’m all for challenging kids to use their creativity to fill their ‘I’m bored” time, but after a couple days of being the only kid left in the neighborhood, an over-scheduled summer starts to sound really appealing to everyone.
Layer in the ‘uninterrupted time’ needs of a work-at-home parent and $175/week for a few hours a day free of rapid-fire questions like “What should we do now? Is Kassidy home yet? Did you text her mom? Can we go to the pool?” sounds like a real bargain.
As you may have guessed, I’m done with the 70s summers this year. Instead my June-August calendar is a beautiful rainbow of overlapping marker lines indicating family vacations and various camps for each of the kids.
I can hear the arguments now (some coming from my own head):
But kids need to learn how to be bored.
Kids need to learn how to be bored for a few days, not for a few months.
All these activities make their lives too structured.
Since these kids were born we’ve been trained to structure sleep schedules, feeding schedules, and have had it drilled into us that structure=predictability=comfort and reassurance for their little brains. Isn’t some structure still important in the summer?
You don’t see your kids all year; you should spend time together in the summer
I’m pretty sure that we’ll have plenty of together time left after our 3 hours apart during art camp.
Kids learn creativity by having to come up with ways to spend their time
Kids can also learn creativity through the amazing camps available these days like Lego Robotics, Drama, Art, Sports and more.
Why should I have to pay for something they can do at home?
That was actually me saying that as I was shelling out $175 for a Lego camp. I posted the following question on my Facebook page: “Can anyone out there give me a reason why I should pay $175 for Lego camp instead of just buying my son $175 worth of Legos and having him play with them for a week?”
I was surprised with all the pro-camp responses I received and all the positive feedback about the benefits like meeting new friends, learning teamwork and improving sharing skills.
Perhaps most important to me is the benefit of giving my kid a few hours of their day to interact with coaches and camp leaders who are genuinely engaged in their activity instead of just throwing them a bunch of responses of “Give me one more minute……” or half-hearted “Mmmhmmmm, honey, yeahhhh, that’s great,” while trying to finish up a project for my client.
And those few hours apart are just what I need to finish up my work for the day so that when they return, I don’t need them to “give me one more minute,” I can give them all the minutes they need.
One theory on why I find it challenging to have an ‘un-structured’ summer: I’m the same person that wrote these Childcare Instructions.
And speaking of the 70s, here’s a silly little post I did inspired by the Halloween costumes that my mom made me in the 70s.
Once upon a time, Susanne Kerns was a Senior Account Director at an advertising agency working for two of the top brands in the world. Nine years ago she traded in her corporate life for a life as a stay at home mom, raising two of the best kids in the world. She started her blog, The Dusty Parachute as a way to dust off her online advertising skills and begin her job search. Instead, she now uses it as a way to spend lots of time on the computer so her kids think that mommy has a job.
Susanne’s essays have been featured in Scary Mommy, BonBon Break and Redbook and she is also a contributor in the upcoming books, It’s Really 10 Months, Special Delivery and Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?! You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.