Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy

Category: Weekly Columns

I love that song.  Who can’t help but love it?  It’s nearing summertime by this dad’s astute intuition and the school calendar, and that tells me it’s summer once again and what are we going to do with the kids?  A stay-at-home parent’s life is dictated by driving.  Driving his or her kids to and from school, to their various extra-curricular activities, to doctor’s appointments, etc.  We live in the car, so summer is actually my break, too.

However, each summer poses a challenge of what to provide to best occupy my boys and possibly add positively to their life experiences.  I’ve given up on any sports-oriented activities as they’ve rejected all of them.  I signed up to coach a baseball team when Will, my older son, expressed interest in playing ball at around age eight.  It ended with me continuing to finish the season as coach while he quit halfway through.  Now, we all know that my allowing him to quit was a failure of mine as a parent, but we also know that parenting is an ongoing learning experience and one we might succeed at, finally, with our grandkids.  And, that’s only because we can send them home after a while.

So, sports camp and the like are out.  Camps where they have any dirt are also out.  For my boys, at least.  Okay, I’m exaggerating, as David will attend a sleep-away camp, his third consecutive year, that actually does have some dirt and the occasional bug in the cabins.  And, he loves it.  Last summer, he actually kept every letter that I sent, and I sent a bunch, and put them together as a sort of book.  He said he read them repeatedly, while at camp, and then occasionally thereafter back at home.  So, I guess he’s still the little boy missing home.  I dislike for him to be away for four weeks, although I recognize that eventually, maybe when the boys are in their late 20’s or later, they will leave home.  My wife cringes even when I joke about this.

My older son, Will, presented a different quandary this summer. He hates camp and expressed a strong desire to work.  Great.  The problem is that he can’t find a job.  How much do I push him to search?  And, how much can he compete with adults who are feeling the pressures of our economy and are taking minimum wage jobs?  He knows that making money is necessary for him to afford and have the privilege of learning to drive, along with a “B” average, so ultimately he will face, very soon, this reality when he turns sixteen in the fall.

Do I allow him to be idle all summer and just hang out with his friends?  He has one passion–his music.  After playing in various bands, put together by the organizer, with a local rock ‘n’ roll school; he decided he was too old for that organization.  He’s just formed his own band but it’s started slowly.  However, upon taking up drums as a second instrument after guitar, he wanted and clearly needed the structure of what that school has to offer.

So, he will be taking drum lessons there and has been welcomed back with eagerness by the owners since it turns out that they’re in dire need of multi-talented older kids to be in their bands, for their regular concerts.  Will can sing, play guitar and a little bass, and now drums.  Now, he will have a place to shine, a place where he’s appreciated, and he will get some more practice and performance experience.  This renewed confidence, drums improvement, and growth he will then be able to bring back to his own band.  And, if all works out according to my carefully calculated plan, he’ll then get on American Idol, win, and take care of me in my old age.  I can dream, can’t I?

Best of all, I don’t have to shuttle them to and from school every day.  This is my summer break.  See, I believe we parents need breaks too.  We need date nights; we need time away from the kids at our own sleep-away camps, although of the four-star resort variety.  Okay, I’m exaggerating again: I’ll take a great cruise or safari, as long as the food is good.

Frankly, I’m really feeling my boys’ getting older.  The changes in their needs, the changes in their attachment to me, their physical growth and personality changes, are all shocks and pleasures to me.  I could do with a little less of the hormonal personality attitude that my teen has developed, but I also look at him in wonder as he’s grown nearly two inches taller than I, and we also wonder when he’s going to begin shaving.  For parents, our kids’ growth is a measure of the passage of time greater than anything else.  The cliché that it goes by so quickly is only a cliché because it’s so true.

I have to admit this is a rare column in which I’ve just shared random thoughts along with some family details of plans for our summer.  Call it summer laziness but “fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.”