Tattoo Camp, Anyone?

It’s already May, which means summer is just around the corner. In our household, it’s that interminable season lacking the discipline and order that normally keeps our sanity intact from September to the end of the school year.


Suddenly, when summer vacation hits, the kids are there at breakfast, and still there at 8:15. I love my kids and wish I could play all day, but by 8:30, they either will be watching a cartoon or complaining about the boredom of everyday life. Oh, the horror. Why is it ever so? Parents are doomed to listen to the complaints of half-pint Sartres stuck on the couch waiting for pleasure that seemingly will never come. It’s hard to imagine that if we were suddenly 7 years old again, the waiting for excitement would seem as long and tedious.


Months ago, when we tried to set them up with fun, active adventures, we succumbed to their argument that what they really wanted was that lazy, crazy experience we remember from our own less-complicated childhoods. Unfortunately, our childhoods stretch back to a time when 6-year-olds could slam the screen door in the morning and not return until they heard Mom calling for dinner around 6 p.m.


Now, it’s different. Summers need to be filled up with activity. Everyone wants to make Renaissance men (and women?) of our little children with hundreds of niche “experiences” geared to avoiding dreaded boredom. Three hundred and seventy five dollars for a week of tattoo camp? Five hundred for “build your own fireworks?” Nine hundred to go “hang gliding from the Golden Gate Bridge…” Much sounds tedious, dangerous or embarrassing, but it’s all aimed at keeping kids moving.


But maybe kids should be bored. Maybe summer is one time they should be bored enough to spend an hour looking for a four-leaf clover or finding animal shapes in clouds on a beautiful day. With their over-scheduled school-year lives, maybe they need to have time to learn to entertain themselves, with a book or a big box of Legos®.


Sadly, we lack the infrastructure to supervise a boredom camp and we’re not willing to spend $300 a week to let someone else supervise our children staring at clouds or poking at mud with a stick.


So, off our kids will go to YMCA camp where they will make endless lanyards that I’ll find in corners of the house all the way into October. They will inevitably sunburn, hapless victims of inattentive teenage counselors who, with the best of intentions, always seem to be paying more attention to each other than to my kids. They will do lots of stuff and stay busy and “un-bored” all day.


But as adults, we’ll savor the extra sunlight in the day and the illusion of having more time to do unproductive things. We’ll take walks to get ice cream after dinner. We’ll lie in our hammock watching the patterns of sunlight dapple our white garage. We might even poke at mud with a stick. And we won’t feel worried at all about getting bored. The only anxiety we’ll feel is knowing that summer, like our kids’ childhoods, is very, very short.


Paul Banas is the creator of and a father of two.
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