When I grew up in the early 1980s, my mom would kick us kids out of the house every summer morning. The pool was on the agenda for each afternoon, but between breakfast and lunch, the schedule was wide open and it was up to me, my siblings, and our neighborhood friends to figure out how to fill it.
My mom didn’t organize playdates or activities for us. There weren’t charts or stickers or jars of popsicle sticks full of creative ideas for how to spend our time. Her only rule was: don’t come back in the house until lunch.
Summer days had zero agenda.
In fact, the only organized summer activities I can remember from youth were swimming lessons and vacation bible school. For the most part, it was three months of wide-open calendars, the days each blurring into one other because they all looked relatively the same.
1980s Summer Schedule
Go outside and play.
Come home and eat lunch.
Go to the pool.
Play outside or spend time as a family.
Go to bed.
Repeat for 85 days in a row.
My mom rarely checked on us while we played outside, let alone organize the activities for the day. We were free to roam the neighborhood, using our imaginations and creating our own fun. Some days that was easier than others. Sometimes the neighborhood kids came up with elaborate games or adventures. And sometimes we sat around arguing all morning about what we should do until we’d wasted away the hours and it was time to go home for lunch.
Flash forward 35 years, and now I’m the mom. Parenting through Summer 2017 is not as simple. There are endless activity options available, a heightened security threat, and the beckoning lure of technology.
In April, my husband and I capitalized on an afternoon car ride to sort through our summer schedule. We evaluated all the camps our kids wanted to attend, penciled in a vacation, allowed for vacation bible school, and realized if we committed to all of it:
Our kids would have approximately 4.3 free days of summer.
And that’s when I lost it.
I threw the calendar pages on the floor and started to rant. I was imagining days spent driving kids to activities and meals squeezed in between. I jumped ahead to August and felt the frustration of a busy summer spent rushing around, no different than how the school year feels. And I started counting down how many summers I had left with my kids before they had summer jobs or went off to college.
It was April and I already hated Summer 2017.
My husband, in all of his brilliance, said, “What if we didn’t do any of that? What if we just DIDN’T?”
Before I could even object and try to explain why we HAD to do certain camps and activities, something rose up in my heart.
It was hope.
It was a vision.
It was my 1983, eight year-old self waving me to come join her for a 1980s kind of summer.
And so I did.
We tore up the calendar. We said no to most of the activities and organized events. We resisted the urge to line up plans to keep the kids busy, opting for boring days. The kind of days my kids initially hated, because their “boredom muscles” had rarely been used. But, the kind of days my kids are learning to embrace because they feel so good to their souls.
A break from the normal flurry of the school year, this summer’s pace is different. No rush. No activity. No busyness. Only rest, freedom, and imaginations at work. (And no planning, driving, or organizing for mom – hallelujah!)
It’s early, so my kids are still figuring out what a 1980s summer looks like. (Frankly, they aren’t very good at it.) But, I’m staying strong and trusting that at the end of August, we’ll start the school year refreshed and more connected to each other. And I’ll be smiling as I look back on our 1980s summer.