Michelle Martin

Summer learning

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

We’ve reached the point of the summer where we’re all wondering where it went.

Nearly all the back-to-school shopping is done. (Where does one find shoes that are comfortable, durable, and meet both the uniform rules and a newly minted middle-schooler’s sense of style?) We’re scrambling to finish the summer reading assignments and the summer math packet as the sound of the cicadas in the late afternoons fades.

I have my summer regrets: We didn’t get to the beach as often as I’d hoped, or ride our bikes as much as I wanted to.

But we made it to some museums, and some baseball games and we sat in the yard and ate lots of food off the grill.

Summer for children is supposed to be a time to relax and have fun, or at least that’s what we tell them. This year, Teresa solidly refused to be signed up for any day camps, which she has clued in are glorified child care and, in her experience, often forced marches to parks and forest preserves and places that might be fun if she wasn’t there under duress.

At 11, she’s old enough to mostly take care of herself and with her parents and her older sister working mostly from home, we let her have a boring, at-home summer.

She spent more time online and less time outdoors than I would have preferred, but she managed to spend time with friends and read some books and learn some things anyway. She became an expert at making s’mores by the backyard fire.

She also had a front-row seat (something the pandemic has provided for the last 18 months, to be honest) to the demands of work.

Now we’re preparing to go back to something more resembling normal, and I’m wondering what we’ve all learned.

We’ve learned that nice days are to be appreciated and not taken for granted.

We’ve learned that taking the dog for a walk can count as an outing.

We’ve learned that 11 is not too old to build sandcastles or go to the park. It may, however, be too old to wear Mary Janes to school.

We’ve learned that Teresa can make scrambled eggs by herself. But the dog will end up eating them because in her eagerness to learn a new skill, she forgot she doesn’t like them.

We’ve learned that whatever comes, we can figure out a way to make it work.

As we pray for a safe, healthy and productive school year for all of our kids, let’s remember that.

It’s our job to take care of our kids, sure, but part of that is giving them the time and the space to be bored, and to try things just for something to do. Not everything kids do has to be working toward a goal; sometimes the aimless journeys have the best destinations.


  • family life