In Memory of Misspent Summers

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. – from, Phrynette Married

A Guest Blog by Chuck Stephens

boys-with-bubbleRemember summer break? Those two months seemed to stretch out forever with endless possibilities and no obligations.

No pressure, no homework, no tests, no schedule and no teachers- it was a little taste of freedom after a long, hard school year. Summer break was a good analogy for life- it seemed unbelievably long in the middle of June but by the beginning of September it felt like it was over so quickly. Summer break was awesome!

I was excited when my dad told me that my nephew was going to robotics andrea25camp for a couple of weeks this summer. I try my hardest to be the cool uncle. I always have an activity planned when we get together- building sugar rockets, brushbots, rubber band guns, slingshots, chemistry experiments and all kinds of fun things that shoot, explode, make noise or otherwise engage the minds of young boys. I let them play with my synthesizers and shoot my high-power air rifle and I always find just the right books to spark their imaginations. When one of them shows an interest in something, especially something I’m also interested in also, it makes me proud. So Cody wants to go to robotics camp? Cool! Next step FIRST!

Robotics camp is just one of the many activities planned for him this summer. His whole summer is booked with educational and recreational opportunities. At first I thought that it sounded fun. I grew up kinda poor, so there were no summer camps for me- just endless days of freedom and little supervision. All the things he was doing sounded exciting.

andrea51Then I thought about my own summer breaks. I learned so much during those summers. I mowed lawns, which taught me to run a small business and save money. I ran with the neighborhood hooligans and learned how to interact with other kids without adults to mediate our squabbles. I learned to defend myself and how to compromise. I did bad things and learned to live with the consequences and I did good things and enjoyed the rewards. I learned how to put dad’s Playboys back just-so so he wouldn’t know I snuck a peak (years later I would also learn that dad knows everything and was just tolerant of a young man’s curiosity- he grew up sneaking peeks at a similar stash of French postcards grandad brought back from the war).

I usually spent the second half of the summer in Ft. Lauderdale visiting my dad. Clair Mel was a boring suburb where we had to find cool things to do, but south Florida was a wonderland. When I wasn’t fishing with my dad or doing chores for spending money, I was exploring the town by myself. I’d ride my bike to the beach or down to John Loyd Park to climb out on the jetty and watch the ships going in and out of Port Everglade. I’d catch the bus to go to places beyond bike distance.

One day I ended up on the Metro Rail to Miami, which was like a foreign frogface2country. The summer before my senior year I got my first job- pumping gas at a full service station for $3.35 an hour, 11 hours a day, six days a week. I learned how to mount and balance tires, I learned how to drive a stick shift and I learned that the rich guy in the Jaguar won’t give me a tip but his maid driving the beat up Pinto will. I also learned that buying your first drum machine and real guitar amp made up for a summer spent pumping gas and sweating for a tyrant boss.

Summer break made us who we are today. We learned to entertain ourselves. We learned to build forts and skate ramps. We learned how to hide the road rash after wrecking our bike going over that steep bridge mom told us to never go over. We learned how to do stuff on our own. Where will Cody learn those things?

Is there a ‘How To Kiss a Girl For the First Time’ camp? How about a ‘How To bucket divingGet Over It When She Kisses Another Boy a Week Later In Your Backyard’ camp? I know there’s no ‘How To Figure Things Out For Yourself’ camp- that would be oxymoronic. Maker camp, robotics camp and hockey camp are all well and good, but there’s a lot to be said for just goofing off and killing time. My sister is a good mom and she wants to give her kids the best, but sometimes the best thing you can do for them is to give them the time to do things for themselves.

If summer break is just another series of classes and schedules, it’s no break at all.

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