The Summer Journal

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"The summer journal" by Jake Frost (CatholicMom.com)

USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a leitmotif that runs through summer vacation through all the ages, linking generation to generation with a recurring refrain that has been captured thusly in verse:

Listen parents and you shall hear
A common cry this time of year
For born on the night wind of summers past
Through all our summers to the last
Returning with the summer song cicadas sing
Comes again the complaint of kids: “We never do anything.”

Apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

I was shocked — SHOCKED I tell you — to hear my kids singing this ballad of boredom already in the first nanoseconds after the close of the school year.

Of all the preposterous propositions I’ve heard lately this one takes primacy of place.

We never do anything? 

My wallet bursting with membership cards to zoos and history centers and sundry other summertime adventure spots begs to differ. As does the sand still in our minivan, shed by innumerable wriggling toes after innumerable beach trips.

Or check out my fines from the library and tell me who was reading all those “Thomas the Train” books.

And that bare patch permanently denuded of grass in our back yard from years of inflatable pools? It cries out against the injustice of this juvenile gripe.

Every piece of the jumbled assortment of equine equipage in our closet collected over the last five summers of horseback riding testifies on my behalf.

So too do the piles of sporting paraphernalia. Frisbees anyone? Soccer balls? Basketballs? Basically, any sort of throwing, catching, kicking, or hitting spherical object you can think of, we possess.

How about the water rocket? The solar-powered robot? The clay? Crayons? Watercolors? Play-Doh?

And yet, supposedly, “We never do anything.”

I only wish it were so. I would dearly love to enjoy some of those supposedly endless hours of “doing nothing.” Because I’m plumb tuckered out from all the bike riding and jumping rope and playground playing and picnic packing and all the rest of it. A big pile of nothing sounds purty swell right about now.

I shared with my mom the confounding perspective expressed by my progeny regarding our perceived familial inactivity, and my own mother had the bad grace to laugh.

She might feel differently if she’d ever had the same accusation leveled against her.

Oh, wait a minute.

But, but … it must have been my brother.

“That’s why I started the summer journals,” Mom said. “That way when you kids would write down what we did each day, when you’d tell me that we never did anything, I could have you look back over your journal and read what it was that we did.”

(Editorial aside: I assume that when Mom said, in speaking to “me,” that “you” used to tell me ‘we never do anything,’ what she really meant was: “your brother.” I just wanted to clarify that point.)

In any case, when Mom explained it to me I had the “Ah-ha” moment as the light bulb finally went off. All those years I should have known there had been madness to Mom’s method.

So there you have it, a tip for the savvy: get your kids summer journals and incorporate daily journal entries into your routine. For me, we’ll do them right after lunch as part of our “Quiet Hour.”

(Second editorial aside: Quiet Hour is an hour sandwiched between our big morning adventure session and our evening park time. It’s a little space built in our day for the kids to rest. During Quiet Hour they all go somewhere by themselves to have quiet time. They can lay in their beds and read a book, find a quiet corner to do some drawing, build with Lego, whatever, but it’s screen-free quiet time on their own to recuperate between our long morning session of “doing nothing,” when we usually are outside and on adventures, which adventures do actually exist, as my children will discover when they go back and read their own summer journals, and the evening romp at the playground.)

And the memories captured in the summer journals extend even beyond the dog days of summer doldrums. I still have summer journals from when I was a kid!

Happy summer, everyone!


Copyright 2019 Jake Frost

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About Author

Jake Frost is the author of The Happy Jar, (a children’s picture book), Catholic Dad, (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family and Fatherhood to Encourage and Inspire, and a book of poetry, From Dust to Stars. He is a lawyer in hiatus, having temporarily traded depositions for diapers and court rooms for kitchens to care for his young children. He comes from a large family in a small town of the Midwest, and lives near the Mississippi River with his wife and kids.

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