Whatever happened to the quintessential “summer break?” You’ve most likely heard the 1963 tune performed by the smooth, jazzy voice of Nat King Cole, ”Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.” That first line is all anyone really needed to know, especially if you were a kid. It was the ultimate theme for those hot summer months. Summer is hazy, or at least hot (in most of the U.S.A.), and you should spend a portion of it being lazy, with some leftover time invested in doing something just a little crazy.
These days, the summer months for many youngsters can prove to be just as overly scheduled and monitored as the school year. Parents drive frantically to and fro, transporting their children to a myriad of planned activities, while kids spend their summers learning, studying, engaging in organized sports, swimming like a school of fish with their summer camp buddies, and/or playing games on their electronic devices in the comfort of some air-conditioned facility. There are, of course, many holders-on to the old ways, with stay-at-home parents, or babysitters, sending their young charges out to play with the neighborhood kids (if there are any to be found with an open time slot in their schedule).
I find myself really noticing these children in my locale, because it’s so unusual nowadays, to witness little squirts running around or riding bikes outside. I make it a point to mention to these members of the younger generation that their neighborhood game of tag, baseball, or whatever it may be, warms my heart and brings a smile to my face. The kids usually seem to appreciate my comments. They grin and say thanks, then scamper off quickly to continue their game. These encounters never fail to draw my thoughts back to memories of my own childhood summers.
Do you remember, as a young child, standing on the edge of summer? I can easily call to mind the last day of school, the last bell, and suddenly, my classmates and I were free, launching ourselves, with an emotion not unlike hysteria, into the land of summer with no rigid schedule. Well … maybe there was that first week or two of lying around, being bored, trying to figure out what to do with all that spare time on our hands, but once we got into the swing of things, there was no stopping us!
During my childhood summers, my friends and I sweated, swam, and swung our way through a summer of spontaneous outdoor adventures. Of course, our morning chores had to be completed before heading out, but the summer sun was a perfect motivator. Unless you count swimming lessons, Vacation Bible Camp was the only strictly scheduled event of our summers, and even that included lots of fun activities. After a long day of (mostly) outdoor activities, capped off by a neighborhood sunset game of Red Rover, we would fall asleep with fans blowing on us in our un-air-conditioned bedrooms. June, July, and August in Ohio are always hot and muggy, so we just trudged through it, and were completely acclimated to it by the Fourth of July.
During our tween years, we would spend entire days at the local pool or lake. Often my cohorts and I would splash and play in the water for hours, doing somersaults and handstands in the cool, deep water, swimming out to the docks, and going down the slides, coming out reluctantly only when the whistle blew for the scheduled lifeguard breaks. We would jump off the diving boards until we were giddy, in and out of the water hundreds of times, mixing our attempts at graceful diving with silly, creative leaps, choreographed with precision comedy to bring giggles to our friends’ faces. As dinner time drew near, we biked home.
When we weren’t at the pool, we were busy trying to figure out how to build our own playhouse or fort, or planning a campout in someone’s back yard, or eating fresh apples right off the trees, or gathering in the neighbor’s field for a game of (so-called) “Indian baseball.” Our game was an interesting variation of the original version, and was endlessly entertaining, usually finished off by raiding someone’s freezer for a refreshing treat. There were campfires, cookouts, and occasional trips to local amusement parks (no such thing as season passes back then, but there were smaller, family-friendly parks scattered all over the place), not to mention the carnival that set up every year in our small town’s shopping plaza parking lot. All of these experiences gave us the opportunity to live our “lazy, hazy, crazy” summers to the fullest, and the best part was, it cost us pennies on the dollar, compared to today’s standard summer fare.
I grew older, of course, and transitioned into the summer-job phase of life, but I had learned to treasure the gift of summer recess (done properly!), and I administered it in large doses to my children when they were young. I can witness this family tradition continuing now, with my two oldest daughters and their children. I see the simple, inexpensive, spontaneous, outdoor activities they offer my grandchildren, and I know … our growing family is doing summer right, and I hope it continues in this vein for generations to come.
Simple leisure time for children ignites creativity, alleviates stress, builds self-assurance, and lays the foundation for a healthy balance in life. As these summer days rush by in a blur, make opportunities to celebrate something memorably lazy and kind of crazy with your children, before it’s too late.
Copyright 2019 Charlene Rack