Why Summer's Overrated. Sorta.

Family Matters on 06.15.11
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Image: John Cave Osborne

Summer is finally upon us which means that I'm currently relearning the same lesson I learn every year about this time. Namely that summer's not all it's cracked up to be. (And, no! I'm not talking about the mosquitos!)

Don't get me wrong. I still love summer. But the whole relaxed vibe that's associated with the season? It doesn't exist. At least not entirely. Though there are, indeed, many relaxed elements to summer, most of them have a flip side with which parents must contend. And that, in turn, makes summer the ultimate good-news / bad-news season for those of us with children. And here are but five examples:

1. Good news—No more carpooling to school: I’m the poor clown who had to contend with a carful of kids virtually every morning during the school year. And while I was usually able to keep the peace, my dependence upon Disney XM was disturbing at best. So to get a break from carpooling? It's huge for me.

Bad news—Summer shuttle service: But it’s not exactly time to let my XM subscription lapse just yet. Because frequent trips to the pool and countless play dates will turn my wife and me into glorified, round-the-clock chauffeurs this summer. Sound familiar?


2. Good news—No school: Face it. Even parents need a break from gathering around the table each and every night as we help (or police) our children’s academic efforts.

Bad news—No structure: But once school disappears, so, too, does structure. Which means that my wife and I must be extra diligent in scheduling our kids’ days to provide them with the sense of routine they so desperately need.


kids walking to school

No more school for these guys. But now what to do with them? Image: John Cave Osborne


3. Good news—Sleeping in: As a kid, summer meant you could sleep in and not have to worry about getting ready for school. As a parent? Pretty much the same deal. Well, not the sleeping-in part. We can’t do that. But it is nice to know that we don’t have to get everyone out the door by 7:30. 

Bad news—The “Bedtime Blowoff”: The flip side? A little thing I like to call the “Bedtime Blowoff.” That’s when our kids try to push the bedtime envelop, citing the fact that they can sleep in the following morning as justification. But my wife and I both recognize the important role sleep plays in our children’s development (translation: the kids are train wrecks when they’re tired), which means that we fight the bedtime battle even harder than usual during the summer.


4. Good news—Kids often play outside: I’m one of those guys who believes that kids don’t play enough outside these days. So I’m always thankful for summertime because my kids spend way more time outdoors. And I’d rather they entertain themselves under the clear blue sky as opposed to relying upon a TV or computer screen to keep them occupied.

Bad news—Kids seldom read inside: Yet now that school’s gone bye-bye, the same thing can happen to reading for many kids. (And don't even get me started about the increase in TV hours that comes along with summer.) Our oldest daughter’s school has a summer reading program, so we're lucky—she’s required to turn some pages this summer. But we'll have to stay on top of her to make sure it gets done. 


mom swimming with kids

Swimming's cool. Until they're old enough to join the swim team. Image: John Cave Osborne


5. Good news—Swimming: You know why kids don’t swim in the winter? Because parents won’t let them. (Duh.) Otherwise they would. For kids don’t aren't concerned about little things like water temperature. Parents are. But once summer rolls around, that concern disappears, which is good news for everyone. Because who doesn’t love to swim? 

Bad news—Swim meets: Yet swimming, at least for my kids, also means involvement with a swim team. And swim teams compete in swim meets. And simply put, I’m not a big fan. Each swim meet is like a five-hour commitment. And standing around for 300 minutes to see your child swim for just two of them isn’t exactly a great return on your investment. Not to mention the fact that the meets often last so late that the whole “Bedtime Blowoff” deal comes into play. 

So, you see? For every good thing about summer, there's also something that makes it a bit more complicated than I'd like from a parenting standpoint. But I still love summer. Because parenting's always complicated no matter what season. And if I get to choose, I'd just as soon endure those complications while wearing a pair of flip flops, thank you very much. 

Is summer a good-news / bad-news season for you, too? 

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