In the past, when school let out and our public education system/national babysitting service sent our wonderful bundles of joy home, I had few if any problems. They would come home for the summer break, and we would quickly sign them up for a whole slew of town-sponsored programs. We would pretty much treat the summer program as a continuation of school, at least when it came to juggling the schedules of two working parents.
We would pry them out of bed each morning and send them off with a sack lunch and a bathing suit to enjoy a morning of chilly swimming lessons and a variety physical activities that would culminate with them coming back home tired and worn out in the afternoon. They would only be alone in the house for a short period of time before a parent returned from their nine-to-fiver to make sure no one had set the cat on fire or decided to learn to juggle with the kitchen cutlery.
But those days are over. Now we have teenagers.
This year, when we asked what they wanted to do for the next ten weeks, they bluntly said, “We won't do Summer Rec.”
Mrs. Chef asked with suspicion in her voice, “That's fine. What do you think you are going to do instead?”
There was a long silence, then the thirteen-year-old said, “I was thinking about getting a job.” His brother said, “Can't we just relax this summer?”
Alarm bells started ringing in the back of my head as I thought about making sure a kid manages his first job when that same kid was still struggling with the responsibility of brushing his teeth and keeping his room clean. I considered the hassle of dealing with a child with nothing but spending cash and I actually shuddered. And then there was the other “just relax” child.
Are you kidding me? The kid wants to sit around 24/7 and type on his computer to invisible people who are somewhere across town, or on the other side of the planet, until his hands became so twisted from carpal tunnel injuries that he would be unable to operate a a set of Tinker Toys, much less anything electronic.
It would be like losing him to a strange cult where he would achieve, through study and hard work, a lower state of consciousness, a kind of nerdvana for the 21st Century teenager.
As I sat their, contemplating this nightmare scenario, the love of my life came to the rescue. She lifted her head, and her nostrils flared just slightly as she said with the slightest motherly sneer, “A job? Just relax? That will never happen.
“If you two boys fail to come up with something to do this summer, something that involves the real world, then let me tell you, I have a whole list of things that will mean you are digging holes, scrubbing, organizing, and doing any number of endless tasks that will keep you busy every day until school begins again.”
I could see the fear in their eyes as they contemplated two months of weeding the garden, painting the house, mowing the lawn, cleaning their rooms, organizing the garage and any number of things that their mother's cruel and heartless imagination could produce.
The youngest actually took a step back before saying, “I...I think I'd like to build a fort in the woods.” His older brother quickly nodded his head and said, “Yeah...and maybe I could help, and then we could go fishing, or explore the trails up the hill or something.”
As they started considering the possibilities, I silently thanked my wife and thought, “Maybe it won't be so bad after all.”
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