I know, I know, it hasn’t really started yet for those of us in this part of the world, but having been through a few of these, I have some confidence in drawing some lessons in advance, in hopes of remembering the learning as we go…
My kids are so excited for school to end. And as I put them on the bus in the morning, I am continuously grateful that I am no longer a teacher. Those last few weeks are completely ridiculous. As I talked to a friend who has older kids who are NOT excited about not having this daily scheduled meeting with their friends, I started to wonder this morning exactly what it is that my kids are so excited about.
And I think it boils down to one thing: freedom. There is a lot of other stuff too, like the anticipation of repeating some of the good stuff from summers past (pool trips, lake trips, vacation), but mostly it’s about freedom. So much of their time is spent in activities that are mandated, required, forced. We sort of chuckle at that as adults (especially if we don’t like our jobs) because to US school looks FUN. We also spend so much of our time in mandated, required, forced ways. But the kids know better.
The kids know that they are being forced by us (well, and by the state with its pesky truancy laws). The kids also know that we adults force ourselves into our own daily prisons. We get to make the choices that get us stuck; they don’t have that luxury. So they see summer as a vast expanse of unfettered time, a chance to explore, a time to stretch the boundaries on bedtime and regular meals, a time to read a whole book from start to finish, a time to finish the whole Monopoly game in one sitting. They see limitless possibility unfolding before them. They invent the best games, have the most creative fun, and learn all of the things.
The reality is usually a little more fettered, a little more encumbered. The realities of summer camp and childcare, the realities of working parents and conference calls, the realities of waking up in time for school by biological habit. But still, that sense of freedom persists in the most gentle hot sticky afternoon in a hammock kind of way. And in this they find great joy, sheer happiness in imagining a greater level of freedom in a time when we both speed up (running, swimming, batting, swinging) and slow down because the air is thick with heat and humidity. They experience the freedom in savoring the notion that summer is free, that they are free, that their possibilities are unlimited, even if it doesn’t turn out to be quite that simple, they get to experience that feeling and dream.
When do we allow ourselves this luxury? When do we anticipate more freedom and drink in the delicious taste of doing precisely what we choose (even if for us, just like them, it doesn’t quite work out that way…)? When do we look forward and, in assuming limitless possibility, come up with the greatest thing we’ve ever done, seen, made, learned, written, read, thought of? The luxury of summer break is available to all of us; we just have to see it. And when we can see that unlimited horizon, drink it in regardless of the limits reality may impose upon us, regardless of how it all may pan out in the end, regardless of the adjustments we may have to make. We will be richer for having dreamed that freedom in a hot, slowly swaying hammock.