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Keeping the Summer Spirit Alive

One of the finest joys of being a mom was the rekindling of my own inner child engaged in playful delighted interactions with my very own offspring. Shedding adult-induced inhibitions was so freeing! My son and I could sing silly songs together out loud, impersonate outrageous characters, make up our own outlandish stories engaging toys and objects in the room, as available props for fantasy enhancement.

We fought imaginary battles – where we were always the victor, danced in the rain and danced around the house; we’d create parties for no reason other than for the sheer joy of doing so; we’d belly laugh together and had tickle fests and pillow fights. We’d go for walks observing ant activity, bird behavior, cloud formation, whisperings of the wind and the trees, walked the beach and salt marshes watching the mysterious miracle of the seasonal change as my son blossomed with the seasons of his own personal growth and development. I was his hero and teacher and he was mine.

The acquisition of knowledge was a natural extension of my child’s innate curiosity and interest in exploring the world around him. He gained confidence from his explorations, self- correcting the various mishaps and falls with loving encouragement and guidance as he moved through his developmental stages. Early childhood educators reigned in the wildness, fostering cooperation within a group setting, while still respecting the inner spirit of my child’s natural inquisitiveness. And then, this gradual erosive stripping of natural wonder and delight started to occur as the formal structure of school environment and heavy – yeshiva studies followed by secular subjects – curriculum began to bear down on my young son. The rules, regulations and requirements became so constricting, the pressures to conform to the model of the perfect student were enormous.

The challenge for me as a parent was to preserve the happy, creative, naturally inquisitive child and his unique holistic relationship for acquiring knowledge without suffocating his uniqueness and his creative juices. It wasn’t easy by any means! The day-in-day-out school drudgery of homework, long days as shut-ins following inane rules along the painful path to maturity, brain cell dendrite growth, wearing sorting hats of meaningful and disposable knowledge bytes exacted by towing-the-line-compliance to grown-ups and powers that be, made preserving the joys of being a child quite a challenge.

Summer became the primary time of renewal, saying goodbye to summer was truly a bummer. One of my big jobs, as mom, was to keep the spirit of summer alive throughout the year wherever possible in my child and in myself, as well.

Photo by: Man of the House blog

I made work fun, whenever feasible, both for myself and for my son. From simple rewards to making games out of test prep, to offering perks, infusing enthusiasm, creativity and humor throughout our after-school interactions. I’d try to throw in some physical activity with my son; playing ball, shooting some hoops, jumping up and down while reciting the times tables or other factoids he needed to learn; anything that helped change the routine while lightening the tensions of his day. I’d try to slow the pace down a couple notches, even lower the sound decibels a bit, and encouraged him to change into comfy clothes and eat a snack before confronting homework. We’d take breaks for fun while doing school work. I learned, later, about research showing that after 20 minutes of study, the brain works better with a 5 minute break.

We would continue to do fun things as a family, it didn’t have to be elaborate, it didn’t even have to be outdoors, although airing out the children briefly each day, is very desirable. We would play a game together, listen or play music, work on a projects, prepare fun meals together, offer fun – sometimes silly – rewards for tasks accomplished. Always looking to change the mundane. One time in the midst of winter we put down a beach towel in the middle of the living room floor and served dinner on the carpet with good music and whale sounds in the background. We snorkeled for pennies during bath-time and told each other bad knock-knock jokes. We put up a tent in the living room and had a camp out, hotdogs and marshmallows included. I’d send him surprises in his lunch box, anything from love notes to themed lunches like Tahiti salad with colored paper umbrellas, festive oriental paper plates and utensils along with a palm tree decorated juice box.

The bottom line? Attitude is everything; summer is a state of mind. If your children see that you are upbeat, spontaneous, funny, and relaxed not just about their responsibilities but your own as well, that drudgery is an opportunity to be creative, that project can become a venue for learning while multi-dimensionally engaging their innate curiosity about how things work, school blues can be turned into opportunities to reconnect with joy and each other.

Check the climate of your child’s disposition and look to reinvigorate the summer spirit into his/her life. Offer choices whenever possible, trust them with responsibilities that make them feel empowered and reward their efforts.

Please send us your ideas for avoiding the back to school blues to: Why not send us photos of unusual and interesting lunchboxes.

We will publish the best photos and ideas and pick a winner who will receive:

  • 1 carton of juice boxes
  • 1 dozen assorted fruit roll-ups
  • 1 lunch box


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