Getting my kid out of bed for school requires an act of Congress and the jaws of life.
Like a bull alligator, he will twist away, snarling, rolling deeper into the covers, ready to snap at anyone who dares disturb him.
I am about to have a reprieve from my morning gator-taming ritual. The school year has come to an end.
That might sound great. He gets to sleep in. I don’t have to risk life and limb trying to bait him out of bed and into the shower. And that is good.
But now what?
When I was his age, summers were spent with my grandmother in Minnesota, where I would be regularly chased out of the house to go weed tomatoes or pick strawberries or pick up the apples that fell in the orchard when all I wanted to do was sit in a cool, dark corner with a great big book.
So I really have no room to complain that my son’s ideal summer would be spent building virtual worlds and going forth with virtual friends to destroy whatever lurks there.
Nonetheless, as a mother, it is my job to ruin those plans.
I have to make sure he finds his way outside, no matter how much he whines, because when he gets out there, he will find the real things he loves. The bugs, the mud, the flesh-and-blood kids whose parents also kicked them out of the air-conditioning.
He needs to go swimming and ride his bike. He needs to camp and hike. He needs to start his own business walking dogs or selling lemonade and realize how thrilling and exhausting earning a dollar can be.
He needs to get sweaty. He needs to fall down. He needs to figure out that the shortcut to the store around the corner is a lot longer than following the paved road but worth every extra step because of all the things he finds on the one less traveled.
He needs to learn that learning doesn’t start and stop with a school bell.
There are some schools that have adopted year-round calendars, eliminating the summer break as antiquated and agrarian. I get the idea, and I understand the push to have our kids achieve more, but I mourn those lost months of being and doing instead of studying and testing.
I found a hundred things I wanted to be over summer vacation. Some were doomed from the start but had value in the aspiration. I will never be an Olympic swimmer, but a month of learning the backstroke wasn’t wasted. Neither was building a clubhouse or staging a fashion show or practicing the balance beam or perfecting the formula for the world’s best peanut butter cookies.
Summer isn’t a vacation. It’s a sabbatical. It’s a way to change a kid’s curriculum from learning math by using word problems to living the word problem and figuring out the math.
So for three months, my kid will get to sleep in, but he also gets to try out a hundred new ways to be him.
And hopefully, by the end of August, one of them wants to get up for school.