Monday, April 1, 2013

Community Journal Challenge: Against the Grain

This Monday I am participating in the Folk Magazine Community Journal Challenge.  The prompt for this week asks about a time that I went against the grain of the general population.  The time that comes to mind for me is last summer, which we called, "The summer of no."  As a mom of then 8-year-old triplets the popular summer plan for kids these days is filling every single hour with camps, activities, and more camps.  The past few summers even when I intentionally tried to be smart about the summer schedule, I would still need a spreadsheet to plan out the swimming lessons, basketball camps, and art classes.  While I do believe in helping my children to be well rounded, and love to encourage their interests, the spreadsheet summer was just too much.  I also think that at their young age, there should be more to summer than moving from one activity to the other.  Last summer I tried a radical and counter-cultural plan:  The summer of NO.  No organized activities.  No camps.  No classes.  No.  This caused a small ripple to run through our peer group.  I received calls and texts daily for several weeks asking if I had signed my kids up for this camp or this new sports clinic.  As the school year wound to a close parents asked me daily what sessions of this or that we had signed up for.  My answer was always simple, non judgemental, and the same, "This is the summer of no, we are not signing up for any organized activities."  I was certainly going against the grain.  As the first week of summer began I even paused to question whether or not this would work.  Would we run out of things to do?  Would we be bored?  Would we regret this decision? 

As the days grew in to weeks we fell in to what would be the very best summer any of us can remember.  We were not rushed.  We did not spend our days shuttling from one camp to another, cramming food in our mouths in the car.  We did not look longingly at parks as we sped past.  We did the opposite.  We slowed down.  We savored moments.  We stopped, got outside, and played.  We spent a day 'hopping' to 16 different parks.  We biked to the market, stopping on the way home to read in the grass of our community garden plot.  We stayed for longer than we had ever been able at the cottage, splashing, swimming, and laughing.  We Laughed.  We played.  We made an amazing list of summer activities we wanted to accomplish, and we slowly checked off each and every one.  To me, and to my family, we found that this slow summer full of play was what summer should be.  We loved each and every moment. 

At the end of the summer, I asked my kids what they thought.  Did they miss the classes and camps?  Did they feel short changed?  All three of them said no.  The summer of no opened up a world of moments to us, and we savored each and every one. 
This was not the popular summer plan, but in this instance going against the grain gave me moments with my children I would not have missed for the world.


May said...

This is how I remember summer. I am curious if you went back to the old routine once summer ended or if you decided to keep it simple as possible once school started again.

cliffnlynne said...

We raised 8 children and back in 70's and 80's there were still "structured activities" and many children participated. today there are more and with parents working, there is a need for safe summer activities. Back then, the park district had daily activities (free) and they rode their bikes to it. there was the free library reading program and little league. I loved the relaxed summertime. We read books together, gardened, played board games, but most of all they used their imaginations and had their carnivals in the yard and their "sales" when they sold lemonade, rocks, books, whatever struck their fancy. I was a fortunate parent though, I did not work outside of the home, so we were able to do these things. My parenting philosophy is "show up and love them; everything else is relative"

joan b. said...

YEAH!! Saw this in the folk magazine link!! Wonderful to read again about all the fun you had as you said 'no' to a hectic, scheduled summer :)