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Tattoo Camp, Anyone?

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By Paul Banas   Print
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This article appeared in BayAreaParent in May 2009

Bring on those lazy, hazy crazy days of summer.
Those days of pretzels and beer. Or, in our household, an interminable season lacking the discipline and order that normally keeps our sanity intact from September to the end of the school year. 

Suddenly, in June, the kids are there at breakfast, and still there at 8:15.  I love my kids and wish I could play all day, but by 8:30, they either will be watching a cartoon or complaining existentially about the boredom of everyday life.  Oh, the horror.  Why is it ever so?  Parents are doomed to listen to the complaints of half-pint Sartres stuck on the couch waiting for pleasure that seemingly will never come.   It’s hard to imagine that if we were suddenly seven years old again the waiting for excitement would seem as long and tedious.

Months ago, when we tried to set them up for fun, active adventures, we succumbed to their argument that what they really wanted was that lazy, crazy experience we remember from our own less complicated childhoods.   Unfortunately, our childhoods stretch back to a time when six-year-olds could slam the screen door in the morning and not return until they heard mom calling for dinner around 6:00 PM.

Now it’s different.   Summers need to be filled up with activity.  Everyone wants to make Renaissance men of our little children with hundreds of niche approaches geared to avoiding dreaded boredom. $375 for a  week of Tattoo camp?  $500 for “Build your own fireworks?”  $900 to ”Hang gliding from the Golden Gate Bridge…”   Much sounds tedious, dangerous, or embarrassing,  but it’s all aimed at keeping kids moving.

But maybe kids should be bored.  Maybe summer is one time they should be bored enough to spend an hour looking for a four-leaf clover or finding animal shapes in clouds on a beautiful day. With their over-scheduled school-year lives, maybe they need to have time to learn to entertain themselves, with a book or a big box of Legos.

Sadly, we lack the infrastructure to supervise a boredom camp and we’re not willing to spend $300 a week to let someone else supervise our children staring at clouds or poking at mud with a stick.  

So, off our kids will go to Y camp where they will make endless lanyards I’ll find in corners of the house all the way into October.  They will inevitably sunburn, hapless victims of inattentive teenage counselors who, with the best of attentions, always seem to be paying more attention to each other than to my the kids. They will do lots of stuff, and stay busy and ‘un-bored’ all day.

But as adults, we’ll savor the extra sunlight in the day, and the illusion of having more time to do unproductive things.  We’ll take walks to get ice cream after dinner.   We’ll lie in our hammock watching the patterns of sunlight dapple our white garage.  We might even poke at mud with a stick.  And we won’t feel worried at all about getting bored.  The only anxiety we’ll feel is the knowing that summer, like our kids' childhoods, is very, very short.

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