Saturday, October 14, 2023

Old School Summer, Anyone?

By K. Taylor, Aurora ON. Old school summer, anyone? Anyone? I woke up this morning to snow, and yet as the sun (who by all accounts did a lot of sleeping on the job this winter) finally yawned, poured herself a coffee and got to work; my thoughts turned to the inevitable.

“We will spend lazy afternoons at the park with friends, explore on our bikes.”

Plans for the day? Nope. Plans for the garden? Nope (although my heart did fairly sing to see stacked up outside the grocery store: bags of black earth; snuggled up beside sacks of road salt that we may still need.) No, as most parents will appreciate, it was thoughts of summer programming that caught my attention. ‘Tis the season, after all. Those camps fill up quickly and to get spots in the most desired programmes we are already running late. We’ve never been the family that signed up for much to begin with, long and languid is how I like my summer days. However as the kids get older this is harder to hold onto, requires a concerted effort. But I am made of strong(ish) stuff, and this year we’re just going to wing it.

We’ve never really had very busy summers, but we’ve tried things; camps and programmes; weekends away. And long and languid somehow morphs into hurried and rushed despite best intentions. It seems as if we’ve barely balmed the singed wound from that Canada Day sparkler than we’re talking lunch bags and indoor shoes.

When I was a kid there was a lemonade commercial on the T.V. I watched too much. Grandpa sitting on the porch as the kids ride bikes through grassy fields. It ends with them all savouring that ice cold lemonade. Never mind that the lemonade in question was, well, questionable; that image stuck. If I had one of those aspiration pin up boards, that image would be there. That is the summer I crave, though I have a far better lemonade recipe now.

So this year we are going (mostly) old school. My sports loving son is still playing his beloved soccer and even more beloved ball hockey; a spring sport that stretches into summer like the lazy old dog on that Grandpa’s porch. And my daughter will be trying her hand, and her rear, at horseback riding with her equally brave and intrepid grandmother. But otherwise it will be slow and lazy.

I know that this isn’t possible; perhaps even desirable for everyone. I am lucky to be home with my kids (the old school way); I’m lucky I can give them the sort of summer I enjoyed back in the sepia toned seventies and early eighties (and blurry, sepia toned is the only palatable way to look at the early eighties, is it not?)

It’s not a new concept, certainly not original; this idea of slowing down. The concept of kids being –Gasp!– bored and having to –Gasp! Gasp! – entertain themselves. To anyone over the age of, let’s say, sixty, the thought of children having to be entertained; having to learn all from elders in a safe, supervised environment, must surely seem laughable. But to a mother today having a whole summer with little planned is brave! It’s crunchy granola and tie die tee shirts rolled into one.

And so the magazines loaded with summer camp ideas and programmes will stay unopened, save for the few sports that are adored too much to part with. We will spend lazy afternoons at the park with friends, explore on our bikes. And the kids will have to find things to do themselves, or risk the wrath of jobs being hoisted upon them should they dare utter those words that makes every parent seethe: “I’m bored …

If you are a parent I hope you make the right choice for your family; whatever that is. Some kids thrive on programmed activities after all; some parents have no choice but to put the kids in camp. But if you too want a break, if your wallet or mind or both just want relief from the constant programming; then don’t feel bad about it. Instead hop on your bikes and swing by; we can sit and have a lemonade on my front porch.

K. Taylor
Aurora, ON

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