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MAMA LIKES

Lazy Summer Days
posted by Amy

Like many of you, I'm midway through my first week of summer. And you know what? Not having to make school lunches, supervise homework, or get drowsy kids fed, dressed, and out the door before 8 a.m. rocks.

All three kids are out of school until after Labor Day. No one wanted to do swim team or summer school or even science camp, and this year I said okay to just hanging out. At 12, 8, and 5, my three kids are conceivably able to entertain themselves, and we live in a neighborhood full of kids if they need extra playmates. My oldest goes to his other house on Wednesdays and comes back Saturdays, so the kids get a regular break from each other that's oddly nice.

Besides, my own childhood summers were long and leisurely, with lots of time to reread favorite books and make backyard kingdoms with my brothers. I want my kids to have time to get bored, learn card games from each other, bore me to tears with two straight hours of magic tricks. With short vacations planned throughout the summer to break up the monotony, I think I can do this. I hope.

I do have one rule for the summer: no screens for them or me until after 4 p.m. each day. No television, video games, or computers--and yes: Gameboys count as screens, albeit tiny ones. This rule may be harder for me to abide by than for them, despite their ritualistic whining.

Given the above, Ann Hulbert's The Paradox of Play caught my interest. I read it and thought of the teacher I know who worries that kids are never left to their own devices these days. "I ask parents to send in old craft supplies or recyclables so the kids can do art projects," he told me. "Instead they buy new materials and come in and supervise 'craft' projects." To him, it seems like his students don't get many chances to just play without adults' close supervision.

I thought, as he spoke, about the skateboarding camp I'd tried to interest my kids in: city-run, reasonably priced, with sessions in aerosol art, learning to be a d.j., and, of course, skateboarding, it looked like a kid's dream come true. But none of my kids wanted to go, and I wondered if it was my own approval of the camp that made them say no. After all, how fun can it be if your mom wants you to go?

So I'm going with my old favorite, benign neglect, at least for the summer. There will be boredom and time-outs and all-day marathons of The Henry and Josie Are Fighting Show. But hey, at least they're creating that themselves, right?