I was driving my younger son and his friend to soccer practice when they both started lamenting how busy they are this summer. My son’s friend is starting driver’s education as soon as soccer ends because, as he explained with a touch of sarcasm, “I can’t have one day with nothing to do.” My son groaned in sympathy. “I know,” my son added. “I don’t have a single day off this summer.”
Insert eye roll here.
I have no sympathy for this complaining. First of all, taking driver’s ed and playing soccer were my son’s requests, not mine, (as if I want another teenage driver in my house!) and, more importantly, he was complaining about being bored two days after school was out!
It would be great if he could have one of those idyllic 70’s summers. I can picture it perfectly: he would yell up the stairs in the early morning to say goodbye to me, the screen door slapping behind him before I can react. Then he would head to his best friend’s house on his bike and they would wander the neighborhood picking up other friends while looking for something to do, eventually following the railroad tracks to find the body before Keifer Sutherland and the other greasers could find it.
Oh wait. That’s the movie, Stand By Me.
All kidding aside, I wish he could have one of the carefree summers of my youth.
But he can’t.
They no longer exist.
Unless we parents collectively decide to yank our kids out of ALL activities my son will be home—alone—playing video games and watching YouTube videos, all day, EVERY DAY while his peers continue with their extensive summer plans.
This trend is not going anywhere especially if you factor in the get-into-college-summer-resume-building frenzy of activities that all high school teenagers seem to be involved in.
My son is a rising high school sophomore and according to the Internet (where everything is true) my son should be on a service trip in Guatemala or working on a novel or starting a company in our garage (although that would be nice…).
With nothing but soccer and driver’s education on his agenda, his college admissions resume will be light.
There go the Ivy’s.
Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of a new book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” and author of The New York Times article, “What’s Your Teenager Doing This Summer? In Defense of ‘Nothing” wants parents to take back summer. She encourages parents to jump off of the get-into-a-good-college bandwagon and let “summer feel like summer again.”
She believes that free time will morph into time spent “cooking, biking, building models, drawing, talking to Grandma, reading books from the library, keeping a journal, feeling bored, making money mowing lawns or washing cars, noodling around on the piano or the guitar, learning how to drive, going for a swim, daydreaming in the hammock, lying on the grass staring up at the clouds.”
Hmm…I don’t know many teens who would fill their days daydreaming in a hammock or talking to their grandparents. I know my kid wouldn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree that teens should not spend their summers padding their high school resumes but should they really spend their summers doing nothing?
I have a better idea: let’s tell our teens to get jobs.
Not an “internship” at a family friend’s company but a real job. Preferably an annoying job with a bad boss, mean customers and a lot of responsibility.
This works on so many levels. Not only will your teen have some activity to fill his days but, if you, or your kid, care about the whole resume-building exercise, he will develop skills he would never develop if he was on a 3-week trip to the Galapagos Island with a staff to help him navigate the experience.
Maybe, because I’ve been through the get-into-college rodeo already, I recognize that the over-priced, completely scheduled, 2-week summer service trips and the full-time internships that Lythcott-Haims mentions aren’t fooling any admissions counselors.
What stood out on my older son’s resume wasn’t his two-week trip to a tropical paradise to tag turtles (yes, we were those parents) but his summer jobs as a baseball coach and a camp counselor for nine-year-olds. Talk about developing communication and problem solving skills! And those were just the skills needed to deal with the parents.
But, and this is important, he didn’t get those jobs with an eye towards his high school resume; he took those jobs to make money and because he likes kids. The rest (the experience, the learned skills, the connections) was just a bonus.
So, when your kid asks to go to Hawaii for three weeks to help the dolphins or you feel the itch to sign your kid up for one more learn-to-code class, hand your son or daughter the Help Wanted section from the local paper instead.
Then start planning your trip to a tropical paradise with the money you will save.
What are your teens doing this summer?
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