It's almost June 1, which means that millions of children throughout the United States have already heard or are poised to hear that fabulous sound, the last bell of the last period of the last day of school for the year.
Oh yeah, school's out for SUMMMMMEEEERRRRR!
Kids will be looking forward to later bedtimes, a complete absence of alarm clocks and infinite opportunities to lounge around watching TV, playing video games and doing nuthin'. It's what Phineas and Ferb so aptly describe as: "104 days of summer vacation ... the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it."
In fact, summer vacation is too long, older kids should have jobs or big projects to consume their time, and it's not news that all kids benefit from a more structured schedule. We parents can't just take three months off from work. But somehow we have to change our schedules to ensure they don't get into trouble anyway.
That's why most parents hate summer vacation.
There's no child age that's easier during summer vacation either: if your children are young, well, they need someone to entertain them, likely you, their parent, or some electronics. If they're tweens, they can hang out with friends but remember that old adage about idle hands and devil's playthings? Yeah, do you really want to see what trouble they can get into with access to the entire Internet and zero supervision? I know you don't.
Bump it up to older teens and now it's even more concerning because parties last all night and any activity can include detours to check out what's happening at the local ne'er-do-well kid's house, all in the name of "filling the time." Add a car and their range just bumped up from a mile or two to a 50 mile radius or more. Jobs? Sure, ideally, but what percentage of older teens have a full time job for the summer?
"Finding a good way to spend it" indeed.
I should know, I'm a self-employeed single dad with three kids, 16, 13, and 9, and find that the rhythm and schedule of school is a big piece of how I survive. A typical day for me is all about getting everyone up, in the car, to school, then I can busily work until school gets out, at which point I'm back on, taking care of everyone's needs until we reach bedtime and I can sneak in a few hours of work late at night.
But now I have 104 days of, well, chaos. And I'm not alone.
Sure, there are summer camps, but they're expensive. Relatives can help out, but they might not be any better an influence than that ne'er do well kid down the street. I'll work less and yes, we have two trips lined up this summer too, but to be candid, the next three months fill me with trepidation, even as my kids are thrilled at the chance to enjoy the lack of the very same structure that I think is so helpful to our lives.
Summer vacation? Bah humbug.