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My Kids Won't be Having an Unscheduled 70s Summer

Reasons My Kids Won’t be Having a 70s Summer

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.

My Kids Won't be Having an Unscheduled 70s Summer

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.

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41 thoughts to “Reasons My Kids Won’t be Having a 70s Summer”

  1. “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.”

    Do you not realize that some parents have to work year round? We can’t all be teachers or SAHM’s.

    1. I completely agree – I grew up with a mom that worked full time outside the home, this was intended to be more of a response to my current situation of trying to find a good solution for our family. Thanks for taking the time to read it – Have a great week.

  2. I had to laugh about the cool house thing. Our house was the house that all the kids ended up at. Not because our house was fun or had the cool gadgets etc. But because mum was the only one in the neighborhood who always had home baking!

    1. Exactly – Ours was occasionally the cool house because we had an unsupervised supply of Hostess Ding Dongs. 🙂

  3. YES! I live in a neighborhood of sleep away campers so my kids are not only bored they are DEPRIVED! We mix it up with camps, day trips and vacay and everyone is better for it. I am a better mom when I have that time alone while they are engaged. My Summer 2015 problem? A 16yo whose job is not giving him the kind of hours he expected. Oh never mind, he sleeps the same number of hours that he used to be in camp. All is right with the world.

    1. Yes, Texas is big about sleep away camps. I haven’t been brave enough to try them for my older daughter yet but that’s where many of her friends disappear to in the summers. Here’s hoping that 3 hours at camp in the mornings helps reduce the number of “I’m bored” complaints later in the afternoons (fingers crossed!)

  4. yes it’s really hard to have a 70’s summer when no one else is having a 70’s summer. And I completely agree, kids need to be bored but not for 10 weeks.

  5. You make some good points here. My kids aren’t old enough to be completely unsupervised so we’ve found a combo works best. They do some half day camps. We go to the town pool. And break up the weeks with strategically timed getaways – I can do about two weeks of a loosey goosey schedule before I need to get out of town. I think the freedom is more for me than them – I like the break from the schedule during summer and I like having days that sort of unfold instead of running from one planned thing to the next. My biggest challenge with summer is how long the days feel. They go on and on and on.

    1. Yes, even though we have a summer full of camps, most of them are only 3 hours a day so we’re going to have some serious hours to fill the rest of the day. Fortunately we have a couple weeks at grandma’s house (when the kids can go full-70s) and a trip to visit cousins in Colorado in August to help fill the unstructured void from the rest of the summer. 🙂

  6. 70’s summers are very overrated. I was a child of the 70’s and summers were so long and boring. I watched soul train (because we only had 3 channels) until I felt like my eyes would bleed. I got tired of just riding around the neighborhood on my bike. I would have loved to have had camps and scheduled fun things to do.

  7. I would love to be able to send my daughter to a camp. Either just a day camp or sleep away. But that costs money that I don’t have as a single, disabled mom. This summer my 9 year old will finally learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. I just wish I could afford a bike so we could ride together. We have a lot of craft supplies, plenty of toys, and our apartment has a pool. So we’re having basically the same Summer vacation we’ve always had. Structured during the school year and unstructured during the summer.

    1. The camps definitely are a luxury. Growing up, the reasons that our 70s summer were so ’70s summer’ is that I had a single working mom so it really was just my brother and I running free for a whole summer (although I’m sure she had enlisted the other neighbor parents to keep an eye on us.) We’re being cost conscious with our camps too, the biggest one is one that the high school students run so it’s super cost efficient (and super fun for the kids.) This will be my first time in my 10 years home with my kids doing this many camps (they usually each get one) since it’s my first time working. I think they’ll have fun, and we’ll get 2 weeks in Idaho and grandma’s house where we can all relive my 70s summers in the canal with those poor, poor tadpoles.

    1. I think we were in a unique situation with my mom working outside the home and my brother and I having the run of the house (and neighborhood) the entire summer. I have a feeling I watched a lot of The Price is Right. 🙂

  8. Awesome! My kids are 3 & 5, this is our first ‘summer’ in between school years and I too WAHM. I’m terrified I will go bonkers from their boredom in which they have plenty of time for since their sports/camps are only for an hour a two and not every single day. (why not that sounds fabulous!) I’d love a nanny! lol but I understand. So many kids are in daycare its hard for my kids to find kids to just play with on a random day. So we do the sports cause that is where they will see their friends. The rest of the day is filled with boredom (hah). I can’t wait til they are old to enough to literally play at the creek behind us. Dogs too. Where can I find a cowbell? So grateful to live in a neighborhood where it’s safe to just let my kids dash down the street (in a few years) to their friends houses). Isn’t that a true blessing!!

    1. I really do want one of those cowbells – It would be so much more efficient than me texting all my friends trying to figure out where my daughter is. 🙂 I do love the neighborhood we’re in now – it is kind of a 70s dream where all the kids are in the same age range and you can let them just go spend the day roaming house to house. In our old neighborhood, every playdate involved a drive at least a mile away. I try to explain to my kids it’s not like this everywhere but all they know is Pleasantville.

  9. This article is simply depressing. No wonder kids are overstimulated, lack coping skills and feel a sense of entitlement. Why can’t kids be kids and learn to enjoy the simple things in life?

  10. I actually felt a little guilty signing my kids up for 3 separate weeks of YMCA day camp. But then my husband said, “I want you to think back to last summer. Go read your blog if you have to. Remember how insane you felt. Send them to camp.” And it’s not just for alone time. I work from home too! We have a few unstructured weeks, but even when I don’t have to work, I’m just not the mom who can plan something every day.

    1. That’s the big change this year, my part time gig means that I actually NEED a couple of kid-free hours (vs just ‘wanting’, like I usually do.) 😉 I’ll have to do a follow up report at the end of the summer and see how my plan worked out.

  11. I WISH my kids would go to camp- even day camp!! They refuse.. I wouldn’t mind them being here all summer IF they weren’t up my ass all day. Grrrrr

    1. I wouldn’t mind either, but now that I’m working part time I actually need to have some uninterrupted time during the day to work. Now, if I can only make sure that I *work* the 3 hours that they’re at camp instead of playing on Facebook…..

  12. Yes, camp is totally my friend. Even sleep-away camp, which my oldest will be at for 2 full weeks this summer. He cannot WAIT!

    I think a mixture is good, as you mentioned. Happy Summer! First day here… (you know, off from school anyway…)

    1. Oh, I’m so curious about sleep away camp! I never did it growing up but my husband went to one every year and eventually became a counselor there. He really wants our daughter to go there but it’s on the east coast (we’re in Texas). We’ll see how brave I get. 🙂

      1. I went to a fun YMCA sleep away camp when I was a teenager, and my friend had been going since she was younger than that. It was out at Lake Possum Kingdom, near Weatherford, TX. Very fun.

        1. We haven’t worked up the nerve for sleepaway camp yet (me more than her). My husband used to go every year when he was a kid and is pitching hard for us to do the same with the kids. Maybe next year! (I say every year….)

  13. What? “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.”

    FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS!! and I’m sure if you can afford a nanny, you and your friends with nannys can kick in a few extra bucks so the kids can play at the house with the “cool nanny”.

    1. Oh, these are definitely First World Problems & I’m the first to admit that I’m very lucky to have these ‘problems’. I definitely should pitch in for the nanny, especially for all the yummy cookies that she makes with the kids and then sends home with them.

  14. This is my 2nd summer home with the kids. And my calendar has wonderful moments blocked where their wonderful, moody, overly inquisitive bodies are at a camp!! Great post.

    1. This is my 10th (Yikes, 10th!) and the first where I’m trying to coordinate a part-time work-at-home job at the same time (thus all the camps.) Maybe I should have them stay at home and do my work because these camps sound so fun, I want to go!

  15. I had 80’s Summers. I also had a stay at home mom and a house with woods and a stream and other kids whose yards sort of merged with ours to make acres of roamable land for a pack of half-feral children. I went to a week of camp every summer. Otherwise, we were kicked out of the house after breakfast and called home only for a pb&J and a half hour of Reading Rainbow before being tossed out again until someone had to go home for dinner. It was amazing.

    Now, I am half a dual-full-time-out-of-the-home parenting team. Our 7 year old needs to be somewhere while we work, because taking two and a half months off from my job isn’t really an option for our income or my company. Even if we could leave him without being arrested, we live in a busy suburb on a state highway. He can’t ride his bike safely and there are no kids his age in walking range. So, we pay for camps. Seven weeks of camps where our little only child will learn swimming and sports and crafts and games and read and run and make new friends. For one blissful week, we’ll all decamp to the beach, where we’ll expect him to dig holes to China and collect eleventy million broken clam shells to fill his hours. The dream of the 70’s/80’s Summer is a great one, if you have a lifestyle that allows is, but it’s not for everyone.

    As with every other decision, I applaud the ones we make because they are right for our families, trends be damned. Enjoy your color coded camp calendar. Heaven knows I’ve enjoyed a few 🙂

    1. Yes, I have to laugh because all of my 70s and 80s summers my mom was working out of the home so there wasn’t anyone to go complain to about being bored/hungry/getting looked at weird by my brother. We didn’t have the money (or the transportation) for camps but I grew up in southern Idaho, so pretty much everything around you was fascinating and fun to play with. I do recall things got much lazier after the Atari was introduced, which is what I’m trying to avoid with working in some fun camps.
      You’re exactly right, every family has their unique needs & their unique solutions. Fingers crossed this one works out as well as I’m hoping it will!

  16. love this omg thank you. I mean I’m kind of free falling this summer BUT..I 6000 percent understand all of this. I get a lil itchy with the “our kids wouldn’t have survived the 70s” posts ..bc guess what IT’S 2015 !! lol

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