Old Timer, back again ranting and raving about all that is wrong with the world we live in today. I have had several people tell me “Boy, it must be tough coming up with things to bitch about every month” and I simply respond with “You would be wrong. Very wrong.”
In fact, it’s easy. All I have to do is walk out my front door and, sure enough, I can find something that leaves me scratching my head at the stupidity of it all. Lately I’ve been reminded that we are nearing summer for school-aged kids, and with this new season, a new vortex of DUMB is happening in our town.
1. First of all, the City is offering approximately 11,000 camps, leagues, and classes for youngsters to engage during their summer. Hmmm. As an 11-year-old boy, if you had asked me to enroll in a Cooking Class or an Art class during my precious summer months, I would have packed my things and ran away to join the circus. Kids are bombarded with “learning opportunities” throughout their days and lives. They can’t turn around without the stupid TV trying to teach them a lesson, or the magazines strewn across the table screaming about what they SHOULD be focusing on, and I just find that sad. Here’s a wild idea: You should wake your kids up early, feed them, clothe them, kick them out the front door, lock the door behind them, and tell them that you’ll see them at sundown. They’d learn more in those 16 hours of unsupervised mayhem than they ever would sitting in some city-sponsored Lego class. Pffft.
2. Speaking of summer activities, kids need summer jobs. When I was 8, I used to mow lawns in my neighborhood for $7/ea. I would walk up with my mower and weed eater in tow, and sure enough, the sweet little old lady would say that $7 was more than reasonable, and tip me out to $10 even. I could make a few hundred bucks in a summer, which would certainly be saved for whatever I fancied lately. It taught me about work, money, savings, and marketing. It taught me about sales, customer service, and doing a job right. I was 8 years old. Your precious little snowflake is skateboarding his days away at the skate park while you sit in your car surfing Facebook. Tsk. Tsk.
3. Kick ‘em out to summer camp, and not one of those weenie “long-weekend camps.” I’m talking about a good 3-week or longer camp (assuming they are approximately 12 or older). Show them what life is like without mom and dad wiping their noses for them. Let them get into a fist fight. They’ll learn how to tie knots, and kayak, and stay up late telling ghost stories. They’ll also miss you, dear Mom and Dad. A young kid that rediscovers that his/her parents are actually cool people that they miss is probably more important than all of it, and they’re not going to learn that with you chasing them down the road putting sunblock on them.
4.For all that’s holy, make your kids visit their grandparents. This benefits both of you. If you would like to ensure that your names are not simply penciled into my will, I’d make it a priority to come spend a weekend at dear old grandpa’s house. Yes, I’ll repeat stories you’ve heard 100 times, but I may not be around forever (contrary to rumors) and I’d like to see you (my kid) and my grandkids (your kids). Do it. Or I’ll leave it all to my cat.
5. Family vacations. I approve of family vacations, but I don’t like the way that they have changed over the years. Nowadays you all roll up, and the teens can run off and do something, the other kids have activities for them, and Mom and Dad are left by the swim up bar sucking down Tequila Sunrises. Sounds nice? Perhaps. But not with Old Timer. I’m going to pack all 7 of us into my car, and we’re going to drive to the Grand Canyon or some such place. We’re going to fight along the way, and I’m going to smack at least every kid 3 times by the time we get there. Then, we’re going to ride donkeys to the bottom of the canyon….together. We’ll re-load the car, fight all the way home, and jump out of the car as if it was on fire when we get home. But you know what? When those kids are in their 40s, they’ll laugh and laugh about that trip and will probably put their own kids through it. Why? Because it’s “memories”, and we are all in short supply of the ones that matter.
Look, if you’re trying to engage your kids, good on you. I know I’m being cranky and negative, but isn’t that what you expect here? In the end, I know you’re all trying your best. But in this day and age of instant and digital EVERYTHING…sometimes it’s best to slow things down and just let boredom be the best teacher. Bored kids explore, go fishing, learn an instrument, talk to friends, and just generally do things kids SHOULD be doing – which is to dream and explore and discover. They can’t do ANY of this with their noses in iPads and with mom and dad equally lost in their own lives. Hug your kids and make those memories, cause let me tell you, this chapter of your lives is over before you even know it really started.