Guilty as I might have been back in the day of raising my own son as a single mother, of providing special summer activities for him to keep him from getting bored, I feel the need to reminisce on my own childhood summers.
For the sake of transparency, I wanted to provide things for my son that I didn’t have so he had soccer, baseball, swimming lessons, drama camp…and oh yeah..I rented a cottage for a week, and I took him up north to visit my cousin’s cottage and he had sleepovers with his cousins and play dates with friends…(oh dear, I did too much too didn’t I?…but I had my reasons….).
Today parents, the same generation of my mentioned son, are perhaps overdoing it a bit.
I’ve been observing carefully.
It isn’t just the parents at fault in this area. Some grandparents seem to be going above the call of duty as well. Also, for the sake of further transparency ,I am not a grandmother yet except for the distinction of being a grandma to a six year old bulldog (or is she seven years old?…I’m not keeping track very well aren’t I?)
Back to me.
I was a farm kid so my summers were mostly farm based. I was invited to my brother’s rented cottage when he had one, I stayed once with my aunt and cousin in Toronto for a couple of weeks and I often hung out in my early and formative years with my grandpa at his place when he retired from the farm.
Summer holidays were spent quietly working in the garden, playing with my dogs, puttering around, going to church regularly and spending long periods of time on my own, just doing ordinary farm things.
As a very little girl I recall the excitement of my cousin’s summer wedding being held at my brother and sister -in law’s farmhouse as it was a special and beautiful place for such a special country event. I even sang at the wedding and received a tiny fancy golden teacup that is presently displayed, after all these years, proudly on my fireplace mantel.
When I was about ten years old my grandpa passed away at our place in the summer and we had a large turnout of family at the farm for the garden funeral reception. This event both saddened and frustrated me as I was very angry about losing my very good old friend. I didn’t understand the pain.
At the moment I can’t think of anything else done for my sole entertainment during the summer months except for family trips that my dear sweet Dad and Mom took me on when they had the chance to do so.
These trips were to the States for visiting with my brother away at school and then working there, a trip out east once to see another aunt and uncle and a family trip to Montreal for Expo 1967 .
My sister’s wedding was a fun summer memory but mostly planned around the farm lifestyle. The birth of my little niece was a pretty exciting summer event too. Playing with and supervising my baby brother as well as my nephews and niece during summer breaks were wonderful times and treasured moments of my formative childhood.
Finally a summer family trip out west in 1969 that came to a crashing and tragic end upon our return when we were given the saddest news imaginable that my oldest brother and a friend had passed away in an accident . We didn’t know until we walked in the door. This was before cell phones and internet.
At this point, life changed completely for us but we carried on, somehow.
Much of this time is so painful I have blocked it out. Things I should remember like popular music or other events I have little recall of except in vague terms. I was included, after the tragedy in another trip to California to visit my brother and sister in law and other family. A few years later, when I was almost eighteen my parents let me go on a special school sponsored trip to Spain, again I suspect as a way to help me overcome some of my grieving.
My parents didn’t go on any trips though, not anymore.
So when I see today’s parents and grandparents overdoing things and trying to entertain the kids too much I just want to say that I understand why you think you need to do all these elaborate and expensive things but maybe reflect back on a simpler time.
Spend time talking to your children, tell them your own stories about your childhood, bring good books into the home, visit the library together, visit the older folks in the family and community, sit under a shady tree together, work in the garden, play with the pets together, make a picnic and go to a local park , teach them some important skills such as swimming, cooking,photography or managing responsibilities. Sing together, tell jokes, play games, walk in the woods, share your faith and beliefs, hug your children, love them joyfully and just be there for as long as you can be.