Summer Vacation Approacheth

Now that June is here, my kids have been ticking off the days left until summer vacation. My daughter’s last full day is next Tuesday. After that she only goes in for exams. School officially ends on June 21st. That is the morning of my son’s moving up ceremony- his final day of middle school. So as the countdown narrows, I am taking a few minutes to reflect on what summer vacation means from different perspectives.

First of all, there is no doubt that kids love summer vacation. I still remember some of the lyrics to the song my friends and I sang on the way home from the last day of school: “No more pencils, no more books…” (I’m sure you can fill in the rest, even if you liked your teachers). I think the carefree attitude of summer is conveyed perfectly in the soothing, lullaby-like melody and lyrics in George Gershwin’s “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess” :

“summertime and the livin’ is easy

fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”

[found on http://www/lyrics.com]

Doesn’t that create the picture of kids running through the fields, or casting  a line in the water, like Huckleberry Finn?

Or how about kids splashing in the mud?

Now, obviously, not all parents have that same feeling of ease when it comes to the length of the summer break. In the month before school ended many of my friends, both working and stay-at-home parents, scrambled to patch together a series of day camps for their kids to attend- either out of necessity or because they dreaded having to entertain them all day long. I totally understood how they felt, since I taught little kids for ten months of the year. It is challenging to keep them happy and out of trouble at the same time.

However, I actually looked forward to the summer. I saw my kids’ vacation as my chance to spend more playtime with them. We often went to the playground or pool where we would just hang out for the afternoon. Sometimes we would participate in a family nature program at our local park, or they would take swimming or tennis lessons. We would take trips to the museum on hot days and usually a week or more would be spent at the beach- collecting snail families or building sand castles.

Before we knew it, summer was ending and we were doing our back to school shopping.

When they got older, they became interested in going to day camps with their friends. I would let them choose 2-3 week’s worth of activities, but after that we would mostly invite friends over or travel somewhere. A few times they brought a friend camping

or we would take a group to an amusement or water park.

I tried to keep the fun, unstructured feeling in summer; but coordinating with other families required making a schedule, which eliminated the laid-back spontaneity I wanted. My friends who worked through the summer, however, appreciated my willingness to have their kids over and drive them to activities. I always felt it was the best of both worlds.

All the grandparents also looked forward to summer vacation. To them, summer meant more time with the kids. Whether the whole family was visiting, we were taking a vacation together, or the kids were staying with them alone summer was an opportunity for extended bonding, when no one was rushed or preoccupied with schoolwork.

There have been many ping pong matches, late night movies, shell collecting, baseball throwing and family story-telling. These are the experiences that make memories and reasons why summer can be delightful!

This summer, my kids have a 2-week period when they will be away from home. They have separate plans during the same time. This means that my husband and Iwill have 2 weeks to ourselves for the first time. Maybe that is my summer vacation from being a mom 24/7 and I should see it as a much deserved break. Or maybe it is a hint of what the empty nest will feel like in not so many more years.

That last thought makes me feel more strongly about the importance of family time during the summer months and the determination to keep it fun and filled with good memories, moments we can all look back on and smile, releasing the happy feelings from our hearts, “those were the days”. We can never get too old to enjoy our summer vacations.

That’s me, the second from the right, with my sisters and cousins at a family reunion. It is always fun to get together!