Reflections On The End Of Summer

My yoga teacher told this story today:

A young child is swimming in a pond. She calls for her mother to come play.

"Mom, come in with me," the girl says.

"Two minutes," the mom says.

The girl waits a while, then yells out:

"Mom, is this going to be my two minutes or your two minutes?"

The moral of the story: Whose summer vacation is this anyway?

Which leads me to share this honest, on-point essay in The Wall Street Journal by Samantha Bee, "A Long Summer For 'Weary Tiger' Mothers." (Thanks to Marie Pechet for the heads up.) Bee reflects on the burden of the "enriched" child, how it didn't used to be this way and asks the question: "When is this vacation going to be over?!":

Let's be clear about something: I love my children more than life itself, and I would happily lay down my life or yours for them, as required. And I am a "tiger mother" of sorts; except that in my case, I'm the tiger who lays there helplessly in the sun as her tiger babies climb all over her, tugging on her fur and generally having their way with her. It's summer vacation with the kids again, and I am in full "weary tiger" mode.

I am a child of the 1970s. What that means, in short, is that my childhood summer vacations were spent languishing in front of the TV watching Phil Donahue and eating Boo Berry until my skin turned purple. Nobody cared if I read. Nobody cared if I wore sunscreen, or pants. I was like a house cat; my parents barely even knew if I was still living with them or whether I had moved in with the old lady down the street who would put out a bowl of food for me. In the '70s, parenting was like a combination of intense crate-training and rumspringa, so I would typically spend June through September burnt to a crisp and wandering listlessly around the city, verging on scurvy.

Thus, this emphasis on summer enrichment activities and exercise and fresh air and learning today feels unfamiliar to me. What ever happened to letting kids' IQs backslide for three months, all the way back to March? I can't be the only one who wants to sit on a lawn chair parked in a kiddie pool all day while my children gently splash me with cool water, can I?

Readers, mothers, are you counting the minutes until school starts or dragging the heavily sun-screened kids out to the beach for one last cannon-ball off the dock, and ice cream after sun down?

This program aired on August 24, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Rachel Zimmerman

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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