Thursday, 28 July 2011


School, is once again, out for summer. Please let it be so. Summer that is. Let the sun shine gloriously upon all parents and their children for the next 5 weeks so that we can turf them out into parks, picnics and beaches, where, apart from a few sarnies, some crisps and a daily lolly, the rest of the excursion incurs no further costs. Rain is not only depressing, it is also costly.
“What are we going to do for the next few weeks?” asked the 9 year old when I picked her up from school on the last day of term.
“What do you mean ‘do’?” I said, chucking several, overflowing carrier bags into the back of the car. My heart sinks on the last day school day of the year. Not because I have five long weeks in which to entertain my little darlings, but because of all the ‘stuff’ they bring home with them. Every drawing, poem, mask, sword, clay modelling, maths book, spelling book, writing journal and painting is stuffed into a Tesco bag, ready for mine and Hubby’s delectation. I can’t get away with chucking it away for weeks; old cereal boxes, glued together haphazardly, representing Camelot or whatever, sit on my sideboard until sometime in September, looking like the junk they literally are.
Several times I have extricated these works of art from the bin, where Hubby, in a fit of clearing the decks has thrown them in. They must have a few weeks reprieve. There is no choice. These childish works of art, mathematics and literature have to be valued and pored over. Our youngest daughter’s spelling is nothing if not a little creative and it takes hours to decipher her stories but, decipher them I must. However painful. The Red-Head insists on climbing onto my lap and going through every single page of every single book, painstakingly explaining every arithmetical working out and every poem and story she has every penned. Not content with academia, we must remark, appreciate and applaud all the drawings and colourings and cutting out and gluing from the past school year. It cannot be endured without at least two, very large glasses of wine.
To show disregard for their masterpieces would crush their efforts and speak volumes. One can almost hear them on the therapist’s couch twenty years from now, wailing, “My parents never valued me”.
I therefore welcomed with open arms this week my friends from Brooklyn and their children. Their children kept my children highly entertained, but then we got to talking about what they were doing for rest of the ‘vacation’, not forgetting that they have been out of school since the beginning of June. But, not for them the every day waking on a boiling hot day and the wondering what to do with their little darlings. These kids and all their peers are in organised activity from dawn until dusk. At Camp. Period.
Given how American culture has infiltrated the British psyche over the last few decades, I am astonished that ‘camp’ hasn’t caught on here. We have all their tv programmes, their food and their music. End of year proms are now de rigeur for all high-school kids with many teenage girls sporting orange spray tans, meringue frocks and stretch limos to get them to the dance, the boys look a little more ill at ease having watched fewer chick-flicks than their female counterparts so are uncomfortable in the role of tuxedoed suitor. Wedding and baby showers are also gaining popularity. It is most surprising therefore that we have not adopted that fabulous American institution of, ‘summer camp’. I start back in my cafĂ© on Saturday and am at a loss with what to do with my cherubs. Were I living in America, I could choose from Skateboard camp, riding camp, swimming camp, Jewish Camp, Christian camp, tennis camp and glee camp. You name it; there is a camp for it. No doubt in fact that there is a camp for those that are, well, camp. Not all of them are big bucks either but, from breakfast to dinner time you can rest assured that far from sitting in front of a tv or computer game, your child is being actively encouraged to participate in wholesome activities by the boundless, inexorable energy of the American teen counsellor.
Our British, older teenagers just aren’t that way inclined. Of all the myriad ones that I know very well indeed, I can’t name one that would have the effervescence of a Mickey Mouse club entertainer to quite happily give up their summer of festivals, drinking and casual sex and, for very little pay, to play for hours on end: baseball, basketball, cheerleading and goodness knows what else with little kids. And that is where the problem lies and why ‘camp’ will never take off here. Kids, especially young kids, love hanging out with big kids and older teenagers. They idolise and worship the ground they walk on. My own children would not want to spend their entire summer being entertained by a middle aged mum who can hardly get up a Cornish cliff without an iron lung let alone play ‘soccer’ with gusto. Tough luck then that they are landed with me and which is why my youngest are already fretting as to what the next few weeks hold for them. They need assurances that they are not going to be bored rigid when it does rain by helping mummy with the housework, or if the sun shines, that they will not once again take the dog and a picnic to Mount Edgcumbe.
Therefore, if there are bouncy, wholesome and hearty American teenagers out there who would like a summer job making crafts and bushfires; or who love nothing more than to put on shows and dance, I would be more than happy to receive their references. Current, resident teens need not apply.


Sally said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally said...

I agree about the carrier bags full of "STUFF". It drives you mental. Although my youngest of my own children has just left primary school so perhaps by this time next year I will be mourning the loss of the cardboard glued rockets... I do have my foster children's STUFF though and I have to be even more careful with regard to tact. I do sort of ask them asll to take them to their bedrooms on the basis that the smaller children would wreck their works of art if left out. The pictures that come home from playgroup do get selectively put on the wall. I make a real show of the odd one and then they don't notice some of last weeks ones mysteriously vanishing. There can be A LOT of paper in the house though. So much for our friendly planet mentality... :) How are you btw? I miss our little virtual chats. I am going to try to blog again properly. I have missed it!