Somerville, Mass – This should be interesting. We’re going to do a little experiment. We’re going to try to have an old-fashioned summer. You know, like when we were kids. When we didn’t travel and we didn’t attend summer camps and we just had fun with our bikes and our friends and whatever we could find to do in the neighborhood. And we got bored.
Daddio and I have to finish our book manuscript. The one we started six years ago. Yes, we have a deadline and it will be done! As such, we will spend most of the summer at home in front of our computers.
The twins, for their part, are not keen on any of the many cool summer camps on offer around town. Sailing?! Rock climbing?! Theater?! No, they really want to play at the park, hang out with their friends and read comic books.
I can’t help but feel that this is a missed opportunity. Two months with nothing to do. Why not learn something new or tackle a new challenge?
On the other hand, I am a firm believer in the value of free time and undirected play. Child psychologists like Peter Grey and Kristin Race convinced me that children need this freedom — to learn to assess risk, to develop self-confidence and to practice empathy. In fact, we have organized our days around this belief: the twins spend at least an hour at the playground — unstructured and largely unsupervised — everyday. But they always yearn for more.
So this summer they will have more. We signed up for a few half-day programs through our local recreation department. We planned a few regional getaways. And the rest of the time, the twins will be entertaining themselves. Here are the guidelines we have in place:
- The twins have free range at the park and playground. If they want to go anywhere else (to a friend’s house, to get ice cream, etc) they have to check in first.
- They can also stay home and have friends over. But the house is a work zone and it has to be relatively quiet.
- Tablet time is strictly limited and must be earned, by reading (real books, not comic books), practicing piano and writing stories.
- Daddio and I are available in case of emergency. In fact, somebody is always home and we are happy to make them lunch or to take them to a friend’s house. But it’s not our job to entertain them.
What’s weird is that this all feels kind of radical. Even though the twins’ summer will look very much like the summers of my youth.
This is probably not what you expect to read on a blog about family travel. But sometimes our kids have to go off on their own journeys, don’t they. And those journeys start right here, at the local playground, on lazy days during an old-fashioned summer.