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.
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. “Isn’t this a bit hypocritical, Rebeca? Don’t you have a busy summer schedule?” 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.
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, they’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