Advertisers declare that the start of summer is Memorial Day, but parents and children know that it doesn't really begin until the day after school is dismissed for summer break.
Some of the parents I've talked to have lots of things planned to keep their kids busy this summer. Some will go to day camp, some will fly off to see their relatives for an extended visit, and a few will take family vacations across the U.S. or to other countries.
Our kids are ready for some time off from school work and a regular schedule. Other than swimming lessons, we don't have any regular activities planned. We'll probably go to the park and library often, and maybe to a museum or two. Most of the time we'll just hang out, have some play dates and see what fun we can have at home.
That's how it was when I was a kid. There were no science camps, computer camps, baseball camps, or any of the other hundreds of specialized programs available today.
It seems like parents now think that unless their children are being instructed, they are wasting their time, and it will lead to all kinds of bad things. They'll lag behind in school, not get into a good college, never get that top job and wind up as a bum on skid row.
My parents took a much more laid-back approach. Sometimes my mom would take my sisters and me for a day shopping at malls in other nearby cities. (For some reason my dad never wanted to join us.)
Every summer we'd go to the local fair and watch the shows, ride the Tilt-a-Whirl until we got sick, eat too much junk food and win cheap glassware at the midway games. On the Fourth of July, we'd park our Chevy Impala on the side of a road somewhere and watch the fireworks.
The highlight of my summers as a kid was staying at my aunt and uncle's farm for a week — not because they did anything special, but because it was a change from my life in the city. There were cats and dogs to play with and lots of wide-open space to ride a bike or simply run around. For a couple of years they even had a Shetland pony that I could lead around and give my cousins rides.
Except for my time on the farm or the occasional outing, the majority of my summer days were spent riding my bike or playing baseball and kickball with the kids in the neighborhood. I was expected to entertain myself with my toys, games or whatever else I could think of. If I complained to my mom that I was bored, she'd always answer that she could find plenty of things for me to do, none of which involved the word "fun."
By the time August rolled around, we were always more than ready to get back to school.