Michelle Martin

Summer is upon us

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer, it seems, is upon us again. And I have to say it’s not a moment too soon.

The end of the school year is marked by event after special occasion after party. And it’s all well worth celebrating — it’s that just that there is so much to celebrate. Another year survived of learning, both the formal academics and social survival skills that will probably be just as important for a happy life in the long run.

Now we have the days that seem to go on forever, with dark not falling until almost 9 p.m. and no one saying you have to get up and get out the door.

Wait a minute.

That was my childhood, which now looks like a suburban nirvana, a time and place where my parents would quite literally kick us out of the house to play and not to come back until lunchtime or dinnertime.

Of course, it didn’t always seem so lovely. Sometimes it was downright boring. What if no one else was outside? What if no one wanted to play?

We can’t throw our kids outdoors to play all the time; sometimes, in our city neighborhood, something just doesn’t feel right, and we want them inside, no matter how nice the weather. Last week, 2- and 7-year-old girls were shot in a park a little more than a mile from us, as the crow flies. They were playing in a sandbox, and someone stepped out of a van and shot at some young men playing basketball nearby.

It’s not really in our neighborhood — it lies on the other side of both railroad tracks and the Kennedy Expressway — but it makes you wonder.

So this summer, Caroline will spend nearly every day at a camp where she can participate in musical theater, singing, acting and dancing to her heart’s content. Frank will go to a hodgepodge of different sports camps, playing hockey and baseball.

But he’ll also have more days at home and will likely spend many hours playing outside with friends — and complaining when we tell him he has to stay within sight of the house unless there’s an adult with him.

Caroline too will spend more time on her own, walking to and from her camp, which meets less than a mile from our house.

It’s difficult to know how much is the right amount of freedom; keeping them tied too tight will do them no favors as they grow up and struggle to break free, but letting them go too far raises the fear that they will find themselves in situations they aren’t prepared to handle.

Meg Meeker, a pediatricain who writes about raising children, says being a parent requires small faith, in the teachers and school bus drivers and camp counselors, and big faith, in the God who created and loves your children more than you.

My faith helps me let go, and have confidence when I decide it’s better to hold on. My prayer for the summer is that my kids — and all the other children — stay safe.