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The Big Picture

What Summer Is For

I will never get use to the school schedule of the northeast.  Tomorrow, June 23, is--at last-- the last day of school.  Where I come from (the deep south) school has been out for almost a month.  What use to mark the middle of summer for me (July 4th) now means summer has barely begun. Still, whether summer starts early or late, I'll take it.  I simply love summer.
When I was a kid, my friend and I would pack our lunch, hop on our bikes and vanish until dinner.   Every day was filled with a new adventure, exploring the woods, playing in the cemetery,  roaming the pasture where my dad kept our horses. 
Another friend and I would make our rounds: the public pool, the 7-11, or the school where the Memphis Park Commission organized supervised play at the playground.  Box hockey, tether ball, water activities, board games.  It was a great way to grow up, as every day was filled with wonder.
Most of the time I walked or rode my bike, but sometimes I took my horse out for the afternoon, riding her down the road, through the orchard, wherever our noses led us.  In all those summers of unsupervised days, I was approached only once by a stranger.  A man on a motorcycle pulled over and offered me a ride when I was walking home one day.  When I refused, he drove away.
By the time I had kids of my own, the world had changed, and I  resented that I couldn't let them go find their own adventures. Instead, I felt compelled to keep them within sight, too afraid to let them wander.  Every activity was--and is--organized and supervised. 
Once in a while they ask me if they can hop on their bike, but until they are about 14 or 15, the answer is no.  "When I was as young s 7 or 8, I spent my days exploring and finding my own adventures," I tell them regretfully, "but the world is not so safe anymore, and you will have to wait til you're older."
I know it sounds crazy, but I have this dream for my kids:  that one day they will look into the eyes of their children and say, "When I was a kid, it was too dangerous to go off by myself, but now the world is a much safer place.  Be home by dinner." 
Every kid deserves an adventurous, care-free summer.  It's the least we can give them.
It's what summer is for.  

8 Comments to What Summer Is For:

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Sarah on Friday, June 24, 2011 8:54 AM
You are so right, it is what summer is for! I love the wish that you have for your children and their children. I had never thought about it that way, but now I have adopted it as my wish too!
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margie on Friday, June 24, 2011 11:06 AM
Hey thanks for sharing that. Maybe we need to come up with some kind of movement to give our kids the kind of summer that we had.
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kristen on Friday, June 24, 2011 1:45 PM
wow...I had the same experiences growing up and now I feel sad that I need to keep an eye on my kids even when they are playing in our own fenced in backyard!
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margie on Saturday, June 25, 2011 11:15 AM
I know what you mean. I felt really sad when my grown kids were little. I guess I have just accepted it now, but maybe I shouldn't accept it so easily.

Wendy on Saturday, June 25, 2011 7:44 AM
I grew up in the woods of Alaska and I remember heading out in the morning to play with my brother and sisters. Sometimes, Mom would even just pack us lunch and we'd be at the house for dinner. I can't even begin to imagine allowing that for my own children. Even in our little town, it's hard to let my oldest go out for a ride with a friend. The times have changed and I share your hope for the future.
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margie on Saturday, June 25, 2011 11:13 AM
I cannot imagine how fun it must have been to grow up in Alaska! Seems that not even the small towns are safe these days. It is sad but a reality of the world we live in. I am trying to figure out why--what has changed that the world has become so dangerous.

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