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Activities are Stealing Summer From Kids

Editorial by Paulette Rappa

Ah, the hazy, lazy days of summer are upon us.

My childhood memory is of hearing that last dismissal bell of school and racing out the door, endless days of summer frolic stretching before me.

There was a tingle of excitement as I anticipated how I would fill my days. Wiffle ball first, or wire ball? Build a fort? Jailbreak? Whose pool for snacks? Who can ride the fastest behind the Good Humor man? Our only restriction was to be in before the streetlights came on. It was a certain rite of passage to survive the summer.


Photography by Digiology - Morguefile

My generation may not have gotten many things right, but we did summer right, and I wanted to do summer right for my four children.

But those old lazy, hazy days of summer have morphed into the crazy days of summer.

Instead of summer's retreat, there is a frenzy to fit in dance competitions, day camps, soccer tournaments - and more and more practice.

There is no longer spontaneity or imagination. Instead, there are schedules and deadlines and car polls. We no longer relax. We juggle, fret, and squeeze a 25 hour demand list into a 24-hour day.

What happened to the family vacation? Did it leave with the Good Humor man? And when did school sports start in the middle of the summer and not in the fall? How did this happen? Who stole my children's summer?

Whom can I blame? Only myself and the thousands of other parents who made it our life's mission to give our children a "better life".

Somehow, we have confused better with more, and we won't accept that less is better.

We have let our need to compete in the marketplace transmit itself to our children.

We have downsized family vacations and supersized weekends --chasing one more tournament, one more competition, one more match.

We have substituted time spent with our immediate families with time compressed with team families, dance families and camp cousins.

Do I have a responsibility to nurture my children's talents? Absolutely. But I have a more important charge to model how to strike a balance, to point out that the highlight of life does not come at 10 years of age.

We haven't taught our children how to relax and how to imagine or create, and our children are not better off for it.

They cannot capture the freedom of blue skies, summer sunshine and gentle winds. They capture only dusty trophies, tossed ribbons and stacked plaques.

They will enter the workplace having really never been out of it. They will not survive summer, and sadly it will slip by in a blur.

The other night my sons watched the annual fireworks display from the upstairs window.

My 4-year old was dazzled by the lights as they brightened the evening sky. The 13 year old seemed distracted.

I whispered to him, "Watch closely. Don't blink, because you'll miss it."

Maybe I should listen to my own advice.

Watch closely. Don't blink or you'll miss it.


About the Author
Paulette Rappa is a former English teacher in the Black Horse Pike Regional School District of Southern New Jersey. Ms. Rappa and her family live in Sicklerville, NJ.

Reprinted by permission from the Philadelphia Inquirer


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