Surviving the summer with my kids

I don’t get it. When I was a kid I remember summer as the time when I was up and out of the house every morning, cruising on my bike to my pal Mitchell’s house about 2/3 mile away, or, later, my friend Ivan’s house to get into some trouble or other (if one or the other of us wasn’t working). Sometimes they’d come over to my house and we’d spend the day building strange gizmos to take over the world, like when Ivan and I were obsessed with CB radios and jury-rigged car units with 110-12volt transformers so we could chat any time we wanted house-to-house, even though we lived about a mile apart.
I also remember tearing apart a telephone and figuring out how to hook it up to my stereo so that I had a serious speakerphone system. Of course, the people on the other end couldn’t hear me if I didn’t pick up the handset since I never could quite figure out the impedance mismatch of my Radio Shack microphone and the two wires coming out of the eviscerated green princess phone I’d dissected.
Summer, however, was a time to play, to do stuff and to get out and find things to do.
This summer really highlights how things seem to have changed, at least with my kids. Now if I don’t come up with things for us to do, they seem to sink into sloth, expecting me to entertain them, engage them or at least let them spend (read “waste”) hours and hours on computer, video and even iPhone games.

By mutual consent, my ex and I are not enthused about our children being too absorbed in the world of digital media, whether it be a movie, video games or related. In fact, they’ve long since had their Nintendo DS units confiscated and put away after they were sneaking them under their pillows and playing for hours late at night instead of sleeping. Not a huge problem, except lack of sleep = cranky = tougher time for us parents.
During the school year we’re much more strict about no video games, no movies, no computer time, etc, partially because that’s an expectation set by our children being at a Waldorf school and partially because we really want them to focus on their studies and healthier and more creative outlets.
Summertime has expanded their horizons: Linda and I both have Nintendo Wii devices (which are amazingly fun and cool) but she finds that they’re more difficult with her after they’ve played so she’s just shut hers down completely. I have an agreement with the kids that they earn an hour/week of Wii time by doing chores and being cooperative, and that’s been working really well, to my relief. Heck, I enjoy watching them play too!
Movies are definitely showing up too, and in fact A-, 12, and G-, 9, have now both as of the last week made it into a movie theater and seen their first movie: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which they both enjoyed a great deal (read my review here: Review: “Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”).
What’s puzzling me, and what makes me wonder if it’s just the result of us going from one household to two, is that when we’re not playing video games or watching movies or similar, my kids seem to have lost the desire to meet up with their buddies and do stuff that doesn’t involve Mom or Dad being the social director.
Of course, there are summer camps. Holy cow, there are summer camps. From specific sports to specific hobbies to just about everything else I can imagine, there are more ways to spend our money during the summer having the kids occupied than I could ever have imagined. But, man, is it expensive with three of ’em to enroll.
I never had this issue as a kid as far as I can recall.
So what’s the story? Are you finding your kids are less likely to meet up with friends on a frequent basis, and if so, what’s your theory about why that’s happening?
Me? I’m just trying not to go batty this summer!

4 comments on “Surviving the summer with my kids

  1. As a soon-to-be first time dad, I find these posts very interesting. My $.02 might not be very valuable since I’m not officially in the Dad club yet, I’ll offer it anyway.
    Think about why you went to other kids’ houses when you were young. It was because you were bored and wanted to connect with someone, right?
    Back then, to fight boredom, you went outside and played. Today, you stay inside and play video games.
    There’s still the issue of connecting with friends. Back then, you called on the phone, but that wasn’t enough to really enjoy their company, so you met up with them. Now, we have facebook, social media sites, chat, etc which give many more options for for connecting and fulfilling that desire.
    The problem is, even though those needs get met in some ways, it’s not as good as personal interaction. However, it’s close enough to where kids don’t seek out the personal interaction, even though in the long run they can suffer from this.
    So what’s the solution? The problem is so widespread, that even if you force YOUR kids to go out and play, the chances are other parents don’t. So your kids have a hard time finding someone to play with, and run the risk of feeling left out because of this.
    I honestly don’t know the answer, and I’m not looking forward to dealing with that problem.

  2. Have you read the book Free Range Kids? It is quite amazing how parenting/childhood has changed in the last 30 years. Thankfully there is now a backlash, and parents are starting to let their kids out to ride their bikes again. Highly recommend it, it is not AP per say, but it talks about independence.

  3. Well this is a huge problem and I’ve encountered the same issue with my 2 teen sons. I wasn’t going to let the summer slip away to another unmotivated and socially uninvolved vacation. So, along with a few families in the neighbourhood, I banned my kids from the PS3, got them some cheap $30 cell phones from Target and told them to make plans with their friends and get out of the house and enjoy the summer! It has worked like a charm and their out with friends almost every day, seeing movies, going to central park and they’ve even been down to MOMA once.
    I felt pretty bad at first but I think they just didn’t know how much fun they’d have if they got out. They needed the little push out of their comfort zone of the remote control and screen to realiZe what summer’s all about!
    …It was a great deal i got too… they love their phones- its got has a camera,and they even send me photos of what they’re getting up to. As I said, only $30 from Target! I got them the tracfone Motorola W376 and it costs nothing! for example I got them signed up for the Double minutes feature gives you 120 minutes for under $20 for 3 months, think you cn also get it at
    It costs me next to nothing and the enjoyment their getting out of their summer is priceless!

  4. I would probably enroll my kids on a music and dancing lessons to make her summer more valuable plus she will have a chance to get more friends.

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