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.