Gimme 5: No list this month. Shrugging that off…read why!

by Kristine Gresh

Summer! Barbeques, no school, beaches, the rides at Coney Island… Whoah. There it is. Happens every summer. My childhood memories try to sneak their way into my son’s real childhood…

But so many things will always feel the same about summer. Those moments of relaxation, shrugging off some responsibility, eating food because it tastes good, etc…Of course, a few things are different. My son is growing up in a different time and in a different region of the country. So, it’s become interesting to not only spot the differences, but try to figure out what their causes are (time or place) and if the differences are for the better, or not. For instance, I know the Cyclone at Coney Island and playing on the “stoop” are due to place. (And because I’ve been asked before…a stoop is the set of stairs in front of one’s city home…and yes, that’s where Brooklyn kids spent/spend a lot of the summer.) But what about these 8-year olds in a new summer camp every week? And the popularity of those “faux-casual” family photographs… you know the ones…where everyone’s walking on white sand with perfect hair and matching shirts? Where does all that fit in?

I know times change and more households include two working parents, but I still think that more kids today have their summers filled with extremely-organized activities, and sometimes not out of necessity. No school used to mean “no school.” And for good reason. Kids are kids and need free time to be creative and be wacky, and see things through for themselves. But the world is also a different place and yes, today’s kids also need to learn structure and schedule and skills; more so in this modern, fast paced world they will soon be a part of. So, my advice? Try to strike a balance between organized play and free play this summer. That’s what we’re doing, and then hoping for the best (like most of our major parenting decisions).

Now, how about those family photos? That’s a little of both. True, I have definitely seen more of these pictures portraying, “what, really, we’re super carefree and just happen to be walking on the beach towards the water holding hands” in the Southern US. And that’s not surprising. There is a tendency here for trying to create perfect scenarios. And Southerners do a great job with this. The South is a beautiful, manicured, cheery place thanks to these people. But I’m convinced is a little of both. It’s also obviously due to the prevalence of digital cameras and the ability to shoot, shoot, shoot, delete, delete.  So, again, my two cents? Let your kids truly enjoy themselves and snap their picture while they’re doing so. You’ll capture their real smiles and when they’re old and look through the “shutterfly” photo book, the memories will be good ones…instead of memories of you begging them to stop touching the broken stick in the sand. Want all of you in the photo? Get the photographer to snap away while you build a family sand castle or all try to all hang onto a surfboard in some little waves. In other words, have “actual” fun and let it show through in the pictures…

And one more thing I keep noticing this summer that is a bit different? (And this is truly a sign of the times.) It’s hard not to get caught up in all the anxiety and the worries of the day, big and small. Well, our kids are picking up on this and not feeling that “shrugging of responsibility” that can be such a fun and memorable part of summer. True, we are all (and rightfully so) much more careful and anxious about things. Safety and health are of utmost importance and some recent technologies and new findings are helping us keep those issues in the forefront. But we can quickly slide down the slippery slope and our days sound like a barrage of questions and worries. Does my sunscreen have PABA? Does my beach have oil? Are these strawberries organic? Does that app need to be updated? Do I have to leave the pool so my baby can nap at 2:10pm and then eat at 3:47pm? People – it’s summer. I know, all of these things are important (well, some are) and I’m definitely guilty of asking many of them (the strawberry one and app one, for sure) but let’s all try to relax a little during this summer of 2010 and give these kids that summertime feeling that many of us remember having…


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