The Gift of Summer

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High up in my tree, peering through the foliage, I surveyed my domain. I shifted slightly on my perch, satisfied that no one could spy my nest. An old pillow, wrapped around a stout branch and secured with bright pink yarn, afforded me a measure of luxury . It offered enough cushion to keep me comfortable for a time in my leafy hideaway. I opened my book and stepped into another world…

Creeping silently through the bamboo grove, exotic and foreign foliage in our tame Pacific Northwest neighborhood, I mimed a warning to my assistant, Joey. We were on an African adventure and I was certain I had seen a lion up ahead. How would we get past the wily beast without being eaten? We must find a way or we’d never get to the priceless treasure!

Lying on my back in the sweet-smelling grass, I watched the clouds creep across the sky. Pink Floyd was speaking to me from my transistor radio, telling me I didn’t need no education. Though I enjoyed school, I liked the tune and the idea of rebelling against the establishment held a strange appeal. As I pondered this, the music changed to a song about some hotel in California. Apparently, it was a lovely place with plenty of room, but once you checked in, you couldn’t leave. I didn’t fully understand the lyrics, but they somehow struck a chord of longing inside of me. I sighed and melted into the grass, thinking of nothing and everything…

I loved summer. It was an enchanted time of long, empty days, each filled with promise. And time, all the time in the world to explore, dig holes, catch bugs, and play baseball with my friends. If we were very lucky we’d get in a swim, or have permission to take the BB gun out for a bit of target practice. There were never quite enough books, and an entire day could be spent practicing handstands if I wanted.

Blissful freedom.

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There was boredom too, of course, not that I dared to speak of it. If my mother heard the ‘b’ word, she’d surely find me ‘something to do’. It forced me to think, to entertain random thoughts, to imagine. Indeed, some of my grandest ideas were born out of boredom. And when the grand ideas were nowhere to be found, it pushed me to find contentment in simply being.

In today’s world our inclination is to fill every moment of summer with scheduled activities. Or for the homeschooler, to continue to do school through the season. I think we are doing our kids a disservice when we micromanage their lives in this fashion.

The freedom to simply play, to follow the thread of our imaginations wherever they may lead, to dream in grand and glorious ways, unencumbered by constant scheduled activity, is a gift.

Now those of you who know me may be scratching your heads. โ€œIsn’t this a bit hypocritical, Rebeca? Don’t you have a busy summer schedule?โ€ I am not anti-activity. My kids are all eager to take some extra dance classes this summer and explore some new styles. We are usually involved in a summer play. These are activities we all enjoy, and we do need some structure. But I am also acquainted with the stress of keeping them so busy that none of us feel refreshed at the end of summer. Those are the summers none of us remember. If we all feel stressed, tired, and burned out by August, then we are not enjoying this life as we could be.

All too soon our children will take on the mantel of adult responsibility. One of the best ways I can spoil them today is to purpose to give them the same opportunities that I had growing up. Occasions to play and learn and create through the magical days of summer vacation.

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Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities. –Stuart Brown, MD

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play. –Henri Matisse

When children pretend, theyโ€™re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero. –Fred Rogers

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**Especially for my homeschooling friends, here are a couple more thoughts on the merits of rest and taking a summer break.

The 3 R’s For Homeschool Moms

How Being A Techno-Dummy Saved Summer And Helped Me See The Light

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12 thoughts on “The Gift of Summer

  1. Now I want to go back and live your summers ๐Ÿ™‚ I wish my boys could have had more lazy days. Our neighborhood was filled with difficult childrenโ€”as in abusive and sexually mature and violent… So we packed summers with tennis and golf and softball and baseball and swimming and library events. Anything to keep them away from really awful influences. It was a necessity but certainly not something I wished for them. Hope this summer is magical for your whole family!

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    • When the only option is to keep them away from such influences, you do what you must. It sounds as though you created a wonderfully busy time of play and exploration, which is beautiful as well. I just hate to see families wearing themselves out doing when they don’t have to. We are such an ADD culture, busy flitting from thing to thing without drinking deeply of anything.

      Even my kids won’t ever know the freedom I once had. Times are different. But I am trying to be purposeful in kicking them off the TV and video games and tossing them outside to play in their safe places. And, while we are busy, I am deliberate about how busy. I want us all to be refreshed when the new school year starts.

      Thanks for stopping in, Anita. I always smile to see you here! ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. Such wise advice, Rebeca. Many children today ARE missing out on creative play, rarely having the opportunity to design their own playtime, their own projects. But it’s so important for the development of Imagination, creativity, and problem-solving–to name just a few benefits! These skills are highly important in all areas of academic learning and remain important as our children grow and establish careers. You are right: Let the kids be bored! Some of the best ideas will come out of that state.

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  3. I feel like so much structure and busyness may be contributing to our culture’s overall lack of deep/critical thinking. Add to that the media saturation, and we all barely have time to think for more than the 5-10 seconds of our attention spans lol. Good stuff here, and reminders of how as children we probably never realized how good we had it. Glad that you’re keeping an eye out for your kiddos to be able to appreciate and just BE during this fleeting, precious time of their lives.

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      • Ah, we’re practically neighbors then. I’m about four hours south of you. We just took a quick weekend to your neck of the woods to see Phantom of the Opera. Fabulous show! Grace and peace to you, neighbor– ๐Ÿ˜€

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    • Hi Jennifer! Thanks for joining in. You are so right about the decline of deep/critical thinking. I worry about the sound-bite culture we live in that makes us think we’re ‘informed’ just because we’ve read the headlines or listened to a 30 second commentary. Shudder. I have sci-fi visions of mindless masses, staring endlessly into mind-controlling screens while evil despots rule the upper echelon of the world…wait, I think that’s actually the current culture, isn’t it? Lol. Well, perhaps we can change the tide, starting with the power of play, yes? ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

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