Every summer I wait for it to happen. I wait for that particular feeling that comes. The one where you know it is summer. The feeling you get when you’re in the midst of the dog days of summer.
Bright sunny days. Warm dry heat that wraps your skin. Sweat that trickles from your brow. Hot black pavement that burns your feet. Sounds of crickets fill the air. Ice cream quickly melting into a drippy stream on your fingers. Endless quest for a neighbourhood pool. Kids laughing on bikes while streamers fly through the air. A pail full of frogs. Drinking cold water from a hose. Reading a book under a large shady tree in the middle of the afternoon. Tall, cool glasses of lemonade or ice tea. Smells of BBQ waft through the air. Packs of kids roam through the neighbourhood inventing new games to play. Freedom. Lazy. Leisurely. Ensuing boredom.
When I think of my childhood, this is the montage that plays in my mind. Conversely, when I look at my kids’ summers, this is the montage we’re creating for them.
Scheduled weekdays and unscheduled weekends. Family rafting trip. Endless summer day camps both general and themed. Sleep-away summer camp. Family camping trip. Hikes to Gatineau park. Room cleaning. House cleaning. Bike ride around the street. Ice cream. Rain. More rain. Gardening. Feeding spiders. BBQ. Video game playing. Absence of other kids outside scheduled programs.
I love summer and I long for the days where neighbourhood kids could run wild and roam the streets. When neighbourhoods were full of kids who knocked on each others doors and called one another out to play. I think my kids could have that, only there aren’t really any kids in our neighbourhood.
Across the street, there are two kids the same age as ours, only they aren’t full fledged residents as they visit their Dad on alternating weekends. When around, the sibling pairs are only able amuse each other for an hour or so before their interests diverge. There is another sibling group around the corner, but they’re Francophone. While they speak English, they’re not in the least bit impressed that our kids are unilingual, and have no desire to include Anglophones in their social group. There’s only one other girl on the street, and while she’s the exact same physical age as Bella, maturity wise she’s about 2-3 years ahead.
As a result of a playmate drought, our kids entertain themselves and play with one another. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our kids have incredible imaginations that they exercise through The Game and other kid-inspired forms of entertainment. It’s just that, gulp, they never really, really, really get bored.
I was bored as a child. After a few weeks, the endless days of finding stuff to do left me unstimulated. I constructed elaborate fantasies about attending a sleep-away summer camp. But, I was never allowed to go. I imagined have the opportunity to go to day camps, but those were few and far between. Instead, my mother hired a nanny from Quebec to care for me and my two siblings in the summer. The nanny took the job to work on her English, which meant that she spent very little time being able to actually interact with us for the majority of the summer.
Inadvertently, I’ve constructed the summers of my dreams for my kids rich with summer camps and family trips and lacking elements from the nostalgic montage I constructed above.