Summers in the 1980s and 90s seemed so much longer than the summers of today. I wish I could replicate those summers for my son so that he could feel the length of a summer’s day and not lose those precious hours to technology. But his summers are framed by unlimited access: cell phone, Xbox, iPad, computer, Kids Messenger–you name it. Life revolves around what can be done with the click of a button. He is totally connected and yet disconnected at the same time. He can’t imagine life without technology. I try to tell him what it was like.
My sister and I were dropped off at my grandparents and taken anywhere and everywhere they wanted to go. Yard sales. Macy’s. The farmer’s market. But we definitely had to be home before The Young and the Restless aired. Those were my mom’s parents. If we went to my dad’s parents, we swam in their in-ground pool–after Y&R, of course. Both of my grandmothers loved that soap. When I recall these summers, my memories are always intertwined with Y&R, road trips, and a pool. My sister and I had very little to do during the summer, but our days were full. Time seemed to be suspended: we had all the time in the world.
I guess this is why I am ready to break any and all types of schedules during the summer. My husband–who is also a teacher–and I argue about the benefits of keeping a schedule. He prefers consistency. He still goes to sleep and wakes up at the same time. To him, my approach becomes a free-for-all, which is a bad habit to break once summer ends. And to me, this freedom is a reminder that summer can’t be contained. Before we know it, August arrives, unannounced.
Growing up, school started after Labor Day. Back-to-school ads arrived sometime in August by way of flyers in the mail. My grandmother took us shopping for clothes at local stores: sometimes to the mall and sometimes to a big outlet center in Reading, Pennsylvania. I never really enjoyed shopping for clothes. I looked forward to the food court where ice cream or soft pretzels were on the menu. (note to self: that may have been a bribe!)
But there was something special about those outings. The endless rows of clothes, the assortment of bags piled high in the car, and the neatly folded and matched outfits in closets meant that a new season was upon us. Anticipation was in the air. Those outings marked the beginning of our “goodbye” to summer, that long-lost friend we would wait so long to see again.
Now, time seems to run on one continuum, and summer is absorbed by it. The anticipation has no chance to build. We are reminded that time is ticking no matter where we click. The endless online shopping options and the ability to “click and go” are hard to ignore. We live in a world that is always connected. My son is not immune to this either. As parents and teachers, we now worry about “the summer slide,” those gaps in learning that develop when kids disconnect over summer. He does (mostly) daily schoolwork to retain the knowledge he learned over the previous year. Naturally, this is all completed on the computer!
We often connect to tech as a way to disconnect, which can become a free-for-all, especially during the summer. And even I have to admit: I do like a good Netflix series to binge watch. While I can’t replicate the summers of the past, I want to feel the anticipation of new things to come. I want to slow down time just a bit. I don’t want my summer to be consumed by the screen.
So, anything that can be done sans technology–sign me up! And I admit, that is a difficult task. But I have discovered that back-to-school shopping may not be so bad after all. It may no longer be an all-in-one-day extravaganza, but I still go out to shop. And I take my son with me–even if he is kicking and screaming. The ability to pick and choose the items that will start our new year creates the anticipation I miss and that I hope my son can feel, which is something that can’t be achieved with the click of a button.