Friday, July 26, 2013

Missing When Summer Break Was an Actual Break

Few things can change your opinion about something as efficiently as a change in perspective. 

Take summer break, for example.  When I was a kid, I loved summer break, or summer vacation, or whatever you want to call it.  More than two whole months off from school?  What’s not to like? 

Then I became a parent of school-aged children.  And oh, how my perspective has changed.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love summer.   But from the day school gets out until they go back after Labor Day, my wife and I spend almost every second that we are not working or sleeping, coordinating the full-time entertainment and transportation of our four children.

I know, I know. That’s what parents do (when teachers aren’t available).   But it seems things have gotten worse with the recent generation. 

Where I'll be spending most of my
summer.  In our minivan, on the road.
(This is stock image. Our van is much
older, and less sleek looking)
When I was a kid, we’d spend half our summer days in the woods behind our house, and the other half at my grandmother’s house on Lake Ontario.  We were very lucky, I know.  

But the days were ours, free from schedules, camps and swim class.  Sure, I remember going to one summer camp for one summer – a day camp at a local community college.   Other than that, we entertained ourselves.  Okay, maybe an exaggeration.  My parents always did their share to keep us busy with activities.  But still, it was different.

Now, I’m on the road a few hours each day picking up, dropping off, and delivering one or more of our children to the various camps they attend, so that their parents – my wife and I – can continue to earn a living. 

Take just our oldest as an example:  the summer began with a two week theatre camp, full day.  Now she’s in a one week soccer camp, which is only half day.  Next week she goes to a two week session at a real camp, meaning a camp in the woods with a lake.   Her two sisters have their own camps, as well.  

These are all just day camps, not spend-the-nights like in the movies.  That means we are carting their little butts all over town -- twice a day, every day.  And that’s not even counting the swim classes they all take at different times throughout the week.

It beats the alternative, which is them watching television all day long as we work, with them saying how board they are fifty-thousand times before the sun sets.  (For those who don’t know, my wife and I both work full-time jobs from home.  We’re very lucky, I know -- Sort of.  But that’s a whole other blog.)  

I wish we had enough funds to have one of us take the summer off, just to hang with them.  It’d be nice to play in the yard all day, or do outings to the library, and the park, and the zoo. But we have four kids, so money remains tight.

Back when we started this brood, we swore we wouldn’t be the type of parents that over-schedule their kids to the point where we’d end up just a taxi service for familiar little strangers who’d rather be at some random activity with their friends than spending time with their family.  Swim.  Soccer.  Dance … every minute scheduled.  We were against the whole notion.  We weren’t going to be those parents.

It seems to have happened anyway.

So tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day after that, my wife or I can be found most mornings, at lunch and in the evening, cruising the local roads in the minivan, trucking our kids all over creation.

It gives me two thoughts. 

First, I have new-found respect for teachers, and bus drivers.  And I'm not just saying that because I'm a Democrat.  

And second, I miss when summer break was actually a break.

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