I still remember the sense of freedom that I felt when school was finished for the year. A whole summer of possibilities lay ahead! These are some of the most endearing memories of my childhood – the times of playing in the creek, piling rocks to dam the Oconolufte Creek up so we could swim. Building “forts” (my brother Gregg was especially good at this!) with old boards and whatever was lying around in the woods so we could have adventures. We went tubing and threw rocks in the river trying to “skip” them like our father did. We attended Bible School at the Cherokee Baptist Church and made new friends.
All these memories revolve around being in the mountains of North Carolina. My summers as a child were idyllic and I treasure these memories.
Then I married a mountain man and our four children were able to enjoy many of these same activities as children. Each would probably list different things that they enjoyed most about summer, yet I know that they all loved this season and the chance to be “free” from the schedule of school.
We would often meet our family friends at the library for the Summer Reading Program and afterwards eat a picnic lunch in the park. We would plan “Fridays at Deep Creek” where the older kids could tube down the river and the younger ones could play in the shallows with round river rocks. We mothers could visit and supervise the little ones, getting the social interaction with adults that we needed.
Summer also involved chores in the garden. Once when our children were small, someone asked our third child if she was looking forward to summer. Her expression saddened and she replied, “NO, I have to weed the garden”. My heart sank as I heard this. I did not want her memories of summer to be sad ones! We still gave our children chores, but I made sure that they realized that the chores were done first, so they could play, swim, and be with their friends afterwards.
I have sometimes heard mothers of young school children lament the fact that school is almost over – that summer break was about to start. These mothers are not looking forward to having their children home with them. They see their children’s freedom as interfering with their freedom. This is an attitude that pervades our culture. The attitude that children are a burden and need to be “managed” with as little interference in the parents’ lives as possible. How tragic! These parents are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to build memories that last a lifetime. These years when our children are young and at home go so quickly. (I remember thinking, “yeah, sure” when I was in the middle of those years) Looking back – they did fly by.
Mark 9:36-38 (NIV)
36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the One who sent me.”
When we put time with our children ahead of our own desires, we are following the example of Jesus. He placed a high value on children. As parents and grandparents we are able to maximize our children’s summer. Young ones will not choose the best activities on their own. We must plan and guide them, considering their preferences such as swimming, playing ball, creating art, building forts, even just playing with favorite toys.
Limiting screen time is important, even more important in the summer. Children learn creativity, problem solving, and build their imaginations while playing. Screen time is usually passive entertainment and is counter productive. Active play helps children develop physically, mentally, and socially.
Have a wonderful, blessed summer building positive memories!!