I grew up in Long Island, New York, in a middle-class neighborhood. The summers were full of laughing children, and the ice cream truck was a regular visitor. Sprinklers spun water webs, bikes littered the street and kids spent hours in the park. Summer consisted of ice pops, bubble gum, and recreational baseball games where the girls would sit on the bleachers for hours and talk and giggle. Teenagers jumped in their parents’ car to get out of the house and fireflies filled the night sky while kids ran around with jars.
During the summer my friends and I would hop on our bicycles and pedal up to Carmen Avenue pool. Our pool pass consisted of a rubber band bangle around our ankles with a metal charm attached. We thought we looked super cool. There were no fancy chairs, we would throw down a towel on the white concrete and swim our day away. During the day the library’s book mobile would pull up or a mobile puppet show would be performing. Carvel ice cream was next to the pool and we’d get a large sundae and then head over to J&R to buy candy. Kids had no problem filling up their summer days.
Today summer is a ghost-town. Pressure on mom to find camps and daycares for their children starts in the springtime. Those children who are not enrolled in camps find themselves alone during the day. Doorbells are silent and the kids resort to technology for entertainment or mom becomes their personal Julie McCoy tour guide. Neither is the best option if you ask me.
I often wonder if we can reclaim summer. It will take hard work and require effort. There are books to read, balls to kick, chalk to draw with, and bikes to ride around the neighborhood. If it’s hot let them put on their bathing suits, run through an old fashioned sprinkler system connected to a hose, and send them hunting for their friends as the sun dries their skin. Let’s go back to the basics.
Many of my friends are on vacation in July as am I, but I have a plan swirling in my head when we all return. Sometimes (and this is the nerd in me), I think we parents have to claim one day during the week as our secret summer day. On that day we will all agree to be home doing nothing. We will also all agree to shut down our children’s electronics. Inevitably, around 11am, they will all come to us and complain that they are bored and then….and then we will pounce! We will tell them to go knock on doors, will set up the sprinklers, will take out the ice pops and we will show them how summer can be. We will accidentally walk into each other’s yards and perhaps we will sip homemade ice tea while we mistakenly walk into the sprinkler ourselves in a effort to cool down. Dads will come home, we will throw some burgers on the grill and see who can catch fireflies. It will be all a bit pre-planned but they won’t know that.
Who’s in? Let’s reclaim summer for our children.