Essays,  General Thoughts

Back to school

My children start school tomorrow. Drew will be in 5th grade, and Meredith will be in 1st grade. They should still be babies as far as I’m concerned.

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I honestly don’t know where the summer went. It seems to pass by quicker now that I’m older and no longer in school. As a child, the summer seemed endless, full of lazy days and adventures. My siblings and I didn’t have the same amount of electronics my children have. Often, I think it was better that way.

My sisters, brother, and I had to use our imaginations most of the time. We rode our bikes around the circle driveway, sometimes playing cops and robbers. The steel cattle trailer made the perfect jail for our criminals, usually the younger two. Our own voices made the proper police sirens for our bike control squads.

We swam in our above-ground pool—the one carefully constructed by my stepdad. We weren’t allowed in there without an adult present, even once my older sister and I were old enough to be left in charge of the younger two. We waited patiently, our swimsuits already on when Dad pulled into the driveway after work. As soon as his feet hit the vinyl tile in the living room, we all headed to the pool to swim until Mom came home and made dinner.

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About every other weekend, Mom would bring home pizza from Little Caesars, not just because it was the cheapest pizza but because it was also the best. We’d give her a list of movies we just had to see, and she would rent a couple from Hastings (RIP) for the weekend. I loved those summer days and weekends. My kids have no concept of having to wait to start a movie on a VHS player because the previous renter failed to observe the “be kind, rewind” motto of my generation.

My kids aren’t old enough to stay alone yet, so they’ve been staying with my husband’s parents this summer. Drew’s aged out of wanting to play with someone else constantly. He’s perfectly content with his tablet, a book, or some Legos to build with. He’s the easy kid for them to care for at this point. At 10 years old, Drew’s pretty self-sufficient with his abilities to get his own drinks, snacks, and lunch when the time comes.

Meredith is a different story. At 6 years old, she is okay playing, reading, or watching her tablet for a little while, but then she wants to be entertained. Usually, the entertainment is as simple as playing a board game, a make-believe game, or some other activity with her. Her grandparents play with her. Occasionally, Drew will, but Meredith prefers to be in school or dance class to have friends her own age.

I try to keep my kids from being slaves to technology, although it is a welcome distraction at times when I’m busy. They also have chores to do just like I did when I was a kid. My kids don’t necessarily enjoy the chores, but I’ve explained that I’m their mother and boss, not their cruise director. I’ve also told them that chores don’t stop when they’re adults. Taking out the trash, wiping the table, folding and putting away laundry, feeding the dogs, cleaning their rooms, and dusting/sweeping never killed anybody to my knowledge.

As a child, I read a lot more than my kids do now. It’s not that they don’t read—both have extensive personal libraries that I’ve lovingly stocked—it’s just that they have more options for entertainment than I did as a child. Even now, I’d prefer reading a book to technology most days. And weather permitting, I’d rather be outside most days.

Meredith likes to be outside more than Drew does, and that’s okay. I bought the kids some outside games like softball, horseshoes, frisbee, etc., that I drag Drew out to play with us. Both kids have pretty good throwing arms, and I’ll have to admit I love that activity with them more than being forced into a make-believe game with Meredith where she tells me exactly what to do and say (I don’t know where she got that bossiness from!).

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Even with the question of how much technology is too much, and making sure my children know how to entertain themselves without it, I know my summers with them are limited. I have 8 more summers with Drew before he’ll go to college (or work/trade school) and 12 more summers with Meredith before she does the same. Each summer, they will want my attention and participation in their activities less and less. I’m already seeing that with Drew. Family vacation enthusiasm will likely wane with them as those summers pass.

There’s one thing I know for certain; I want them to have fond memories of the summers of their childhoods.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

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