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Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 8/9/2014

COMMENTARY

Summer, like childhood, is fleeting; take that family vacation

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST

It would be easy to forgo family vacations. Anyone with kids knows how fast summers get booked with sports, practices, tournaments, camps, lessons, performances, and summer school.

Some events, meetings, and conditioning drills are mandatory. Add summer jobs to the mix, and family vacations never make it on the schedule.

Household calendars for June, July, and August fill up before school ends. There are no consecutive days in the summer that kids can miss just for fun.

Parents are exhausted from trying to juggle work and home lives with impossible demands to drive, pick up, wait, watch, and write another check. The cost of supporting kid commitments can be staggering.

Families that foot the bill for more than one student athlete, musician, or amateur performer can easily spend several hundred dollars in a summer. Must-have clothing with team/​group/​band logos is pricey. But peer pressure pushes conformity regardless of affordability.

Some school teams even require players to buy practice uniforms, in addition to the ones they play in, to sport solidarity — at an extra price. Before you know it, you’re down to the last full month of summer, and all kids and parents can think about is the beginning of an even more intensely packed school agenda.

Keeping an adolescent busy is not a bad thing. But neither is taking a break just to be an adolescent.

I may sound like a geezer, but summer used to be a time to do something different or nothing at all. And it didn’t cost a fortune.

Life slowed down. Kids spent lazy afternoons swimming or playing baseball with anyone free in the neighborhood.

They caught crawfish in a creek, rode bikes, made forts, stayed up late, went to movies, walked in the woods, lay in the sun, and stared at the clouds. And just like their modern contemporaries, they forgot everything they knew, vegetated on the couch, and watched silly TV shows.

Summer was an excuse to take a time-out. The problem today is that we’re afraid to.

We can’t stop our routines, and the increasingly crazy regimens our kids endure. It’s not permitted. Repercussions are threatened.

Kids worry about missing important stuff — and it’s all important. Parents go along. Adhering to the frenetic pace is easier than disrupting it.

People grumble. But they do it. I do it too.

I sign my kids up for camps and take them to practices, games, scrimmages, lessons, and tutoring. I fill out forms, attend compulsory meetings, and write checks.

But I put my foot down about family vacations. For a brief moment in the summer, my family will be forced to unplug and play, to argue and laugh, to play board games and charades around a campfire.

My kids will pass an afternoon thunderstorm playing cards until their parents win back enough dough to recoup expenses. Kidding.

I refuse to feel guilty about grabbing fleeting moments in the summer with my kids. My husband and I got text messages about missed meetings, and practices while we were on vacation recently.

We just shrugged. Time with your kids, whether they’re in elementary, middle school, or high school, is short.

Before you know it, your children will be grown up, beginning college, or leaving to start new adventures on their own. You’ll never regret a missed practice or scrimmage.

But you may regret postponing family memories, or never making them when you could have.

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact Blade columnist Marilou Johanek at: mjohanek@theblade.com



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