Thursday, June 19, 2008

Childhood and the Quest for the Perfect Summer

Well it's definitely summertime. It's hot, school's out, and getting soaking wet is part of our daily routine. The calendar may not say it's "officially" summer until June 21, but my reading material lately says otherwise. It seems that everywhere you look, there are articles and memoirs and stories about summer and what it means to adults and their children. Stories of summer memories and activities, and even instructions on how to do things like catch fireflies and build sandcastles.

Do we really need instructions on how to be kids? Although I find myself wanting to recreate my best summer memories with my kids, I'm also learning that I don't have to teach them to do these wonderful summery things. The kids discovered fireflies all on their own (and aren't they always the ones who see that first light?), and they started scooping dirt and mud into trucks and pots all by themselves. They picked a dandelion and automatically knew to blow on it and subsequently plant 1,000,000 more dandelions in my yard. No one showed Abby how to swing from that vine at the park, but today she did. I didn't even have to show them how to run through the sprinkler (although I did, anyway, because it's more fun that way).

So as I read through these articles of how to create the perfect bubble solution and mix just the right amount of dirt and water for the best mud pie, I think "Great! I need to tear this out and do it with the kids!" I gather the ingredients and tools, and show them. They're interested as I create it, but when I show them what to do they always seem to have a better way of doing it. A way that gets them messier and louder, and actually seems to make more sense after I see it.

So I started thinking about my summers as a kid, and what I was taught and what I already knew. I remember things like playing hide and seek in the dark, ducking behind parked cars. I remember hiking in the mountains when it was so hot and dry that you don't even sweat. I remember swimming in my little blow-up pool after twilight, while my mom grilled hamburgers for a late dinner. There were fireflies, slip n' slides, and catching minnows in paper cups at the creek. As I think about summer and my childhood, I realize why it's such a well-covered topic in magazines and memoirs. It really is a great time of year - I had just forgotten until I had a 4 year old.

Now my summer days are filled with activities and crafts and things to learn. I feel like summer is so short, and my kid's childhood lasts for only a little while. I want my kids to discover what I discovered over 20 years ago. I want my kids to see what my husband saw as a boy - even if I think most of it was dangerous and scary. It's all part of growing up and staying a child.

I never realized the importance of reminiscing and discovering and showing until I had kids. And now I can't go a day without remembering and planning the next day of summer. Welcome to yet another essay on summer memories.


Stephanie Precourt said...

My boys have been keeping so busy making things out of boxes. Like little houses for their dinos and "guys" and such. So creative what they come up with!


Sara M. said...

It is fun to watch the kids create and imagine on their own. You really don't have to teach them that stuff at all!

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