“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

I am, emphatically, not a “Tiger Mom”.  At first, I was a bit ashamed of this, being a PhD myself.  Now I have embraced my slacker mom status fully and defiantly, like a black-nail-polish-and-pierced teenager with an upraised middle finger and a sneer.  I am the anti-establishment punk-version of motherhood and I have decided that I am pretty okay with that.

My son is not going to summer school.

Time for Disney.

When I was a kid, when dinosaurs roamed the earth before the comet came, summer school was for those kids who were in danger of not passing grade, strictly remedial only.  Having passed 22 years of official adulthood sans child, and another five before formal schooling became an issue, it was to my astonishment to find out that summer school had become the province of over-achievers.  Summer was no longer time to “catch up”, but to move to the head of the class, and guarantee the coveted Ivy League college slot before the kid is off of training wheels.

I was a good student,  near the top of my class, but rarely number 1.  The tracked New York school system guaranteed a class peer group that could kick my academic butt from 7th grade onward.  I don’t remember any of us voluntarily participating in summer school.  Summer was a coveted time of long, lazy days spent on bicycles, in backyard pools, in street baseball games or stretched out on the lawn with reading material NOT assigned or sanctioned by the school district.  I remember a summer when we took over an abandoned playground concession stand, vividly painted the inside with tempera paints, and made it into a clubhouse for the summer.  Many a childhood drama was played out in those abandoned and adult-unsupervised walls.

Harry does not go to summer school either.  He goes to a “summer daycamp”.  Yes.  It is a glorified daycare, but he goes to the pool at least 2 days a week, has water-wars and craft projects, a “sundry store” where he has an account to buy himself summer snacks (lacking the mom-and-pop corner stores I enjoyed as a child), and he comes home flushed and tired and smelling of little boy sweat mingled with the undefinable scent of hot summer sun.  Little boy dramas are recounted, and what he lacks in lessons on math and vocabulary, he gains in working his way, in fits and starts, through the complicated social navigation of his world.

I value education.  Highly.  Everything I have I owe to hard academic work and persistence.  But there is more to life than school.  There is more to life than work, no matter how meaningful or worthwhile it is.  And there is definitely more to the human experience than relentless pursuit of socioeconomic status.

I don’t think I have abandoned my desire for my son to have a successful life.  But I have over the years redefined what “success” is, and by what scale I would like the value of my own life to be measured.

I have come to the conclusion that success has room for a little bit of summer.  Especially for little boys.

July 12th, 2011 at 5:41 pm
2 Responses to “Summertime as a Slacker Mom”
  1. 1
    Pink Pelican Says:

    Like you, I always considered summer school as the consequence of getting horrible grades throughout the regular school year.

    Now, I wonder if this is the only way schools can provide actual “learning” experience; the regular school year is consumed with the excrescence that is “No Child Left Behind” & its unfortunate spin off of standardized testing that has nothing to do with teaching children & everything to do with stomping teachers deeper and deeper into the mud. (Run on sentence, CHECK; Rant mode on, CHECK; Soapbox in good working order, CHECK.)

    Sorry, I digress …

    I don’t think you’re a slacker mom by any means. I remember being a kid. Long summers of reading for fun and riding bikes and horses and exploring the world in my own time and my own way. Sleeping in and staying up late with friends and with books. Working a part time job or babysitting to make some money. Mowing the grass. A couple of weeks of summer camp.

    By the time school came around, I was ready and eager to start a new year, refreshed and recharged.

    I think it’s vitally important that kids have plenty of time to explore the world on their own. This goes for DURING the school year, as well. I was active in band and 4-H, in Girl Scouts, in dance, but never all at the same time, and I wasn’t “programmed” for activities every single day of the week. I had time to think about things at my leisure, in peace, without a barrage of “messages” from teachers, and coaches, and group activity leaders. I had the time and the space to sort out what I learned, what I discovered, and figure out which pieces were useful, which worked for me, which didn’t.

    I think that’s a valuable thing that more and more kids are missing out on. I think its wonderful you are giving Harry this peace, this time to be a kid and to start figuring out the world on his own without a bunch of static and white noise getting in his way.

  2. 2
    Deirdre Says:

    watching ants while they carry away bits of your sandwich is one of themost enriching experiences ever in the history of the world.

    Summer is still supposed ot be summer. i can’t imagine torturing my child by confining her in a structured environment during the summer.

    you are not alone.