Yesterday I chanced to see a caricature in one of the Israeli newspapers describing the end of summer vacation in the following way: happy children in a messy living room are waving goodbye to their harassed-looking grandparents, while the latter are flipping through a calendar and saying to each other, “good, we have some time off until Rosh Ha-Shana!” (the Jewish holidays start shortly after the end of summer break).
This brings forward two assumptions:
- Having children at home for a summer is a messy, nerve-wrecking, tedious, and usually expensive affair, quite incompatible with peace, quiet and order.
- Grandparents are very ill-used by having their grandchildren “shifted off” to their care.
The first assumption is based on the mistaken notion that children must always be “entertained”. Just as school lessons often mean spoon-feeding a child small doses of predigested facts, so the child's after-school time must be carefully regulated and scheduled by homework and extracurricular activities. It is taken for granted that to be entertained, the child must always be taken to places, directed to properly “stimulating” activities, or stuck in front of a screen.
There might be a grain of truth in this, in a certain way - first, because the children are already conditioned to believe the same thing. They are used to having their time and activities always directed and regulated. Therefore, they expect someone else to entertain them. It might take some “detox boredom” time until they learn to find, by themselves, something wholesome and satisfying to do. Obviously, the option of just pushing a button to make some passive entertainment instantly appear should not be present.
Also, because a child's life nowadays is so packed, so hectic, so full of various doings (school, homework, extra lessons, dancing and swimming classes, etc), once summer arrives they might really “let loose” for a bit. Since they are unused to a reasonable routine at home, havoc may ensue. Such a routine may be settled into by the end of a summer, but then another school year begins.
As for the second point, that of overburdened grandparents, I have to admit that for older people it really might be tiresome to manage children who are full of energy, but don't know how to direct it. Thus the crowds of frantic parents and grandparents herding children around zoos, amusement parks, water parks, etc, all throughout the summer. It can be nice to include some special pre-arranged activity once in a while, but if one has to depend on such things to get through summer, no wonder there are difficulties!
This morning, I saw that the girls, shortly after rising, opened their box of dress-up clothes and were already engrossed in imaginary play before I was even up. Out of the window, I saw the school bus passing by and knew that if we had enrolled the children in preschool, they would already need to be on that bus – in a rush, without a comfortable start to a morning, and without the chance to spend a little time with their father before he has to leave for work.
We walked out to feed and play with the chickens, had breakfast, saw Daddy off, straightened the house up a bit, and did chores. We then proceeded to bake a cake (there was a little squabble about who gets to help me with the hand mixer). We have art supplies, picture books, toys, and a yard that is always accessible. We don't always get to do whatever we want, whenever we want; far from it. There is a rhythm to a day. There are reasonable times for meals and sleep and chores in which everybody participates. This sets the foundation of duty.
As for summer, for us it still goes on. In Israel, it can easily go on until November.