Thursday, April 28, 2011
Summertime (and the living is not easy) - Revisited
Two nights ago, I was hanging out with my friend Sara. We were walking in a park and talking about how summer is almost upon us and how we are so glad to say goodbye to winter.
Sara told me she didn't know what she was going to do with her boys (ages 4 and 8) this summer. I asked her what she meant. She told me last summer they were occupied every day in kindercamp because she was recovering from a surgery and couldn't take care of them, but they aren't able to put them in kindercamp this year. She is at a loss as to how she will occupy them all summer.
I told her, "It's summer. Let them go outside and play in the yard." She looked at me funny.
Oh, that's right. It's 2011 and parents of today don't spend any time away from their kids. All hours and minutes of the day must be structured, highly interactive, and the parent must be involved in every movement they make.
I know I am dating myself and climbing up onto my crotchety podium again, but when I was young, we saw very little of our parents in the summer and I liked it that way. We were out playing with our friends, riding bikes around the neighborhood, climbing trees, making up obstacle courses on the front lawn, catching frogs, playing Charlie's Angels and Bionic Woman and swimming in the public pool. Where was our mom? Honestly, I don't remember because I wasn't interested. My guess is she was doing all those boring adult things that I couldn't have cared less about like shopping, clipping coupons, laundry, cooking, cleaning and working. She certainly wasn't fretting over what she was going to do with us all summer. In fact, I recall that her response to me whenever I would whine about how "bored" I was during the summer was, "You need something to do? I'll find something for you to do". And she'd hand me a mop.
If my brothers and I hung around inside the house too long, we'd hear, "What are you doing in here? Go outside and play and make sure you're back by dinner time" and she'd kick us out of the house. And then after dinner, before we were finished swallowing the last bite of our meatloaf and peas, we'd be out the door and wouldn't come home until it got dark.
Those were the glory days of being a kid, when childhood consisted of hours upon hours of discovering, exploring and finding creative ways to entertain ourselves. Now, the culture (or cult?) or parenthood has changed. Children are no longer simply offpspring - they are a 24 hour/day occupation.
During the course of our conversation, Sara also lamented that she feels badly that her kids don't have friends and feels it's her fault. You see, the other neighborhood moms don't care for Sara (probably because she's too nice - so much so that they think she's weird) and therefore, do not set up play dates with her kids. According to Sara, a child's social life is almost competely dependent upon his mother's political savvy in the Mommy/Playdate network and my dear friend has been failing miserably in this regard. As a result, her kids are bored, lonely, rammy and clamoring for attention. Hence her worries about what she will do with them all summer.
Poor Sara. On top of all this, she confided that things aren't so great with her husband. He works, comes home and sits comatose in front of the t.v. every night with little interest in her or in anything else. So her entire life consists of taking care of kids and little else. By the time she sees me every other week or so, she is so starved for adult conversation she can barely contain her excitement to see me. She pours out her soul and I listen with an uneasy combination of pity for my friend and elation and relief that I had the presence of mind to avoid the same awful life.