There was a movie released about two years before I was born called “The Toy.” It starred actor Jackie Gleason as millionaire U.S. Bates and the late Richard Pryor as janitor/underemployed reporter Jack Brown; the premise was that a rich father gifted his bratty 9-year-old, Eric, with a black man as a toy. I remember watching the VHS tape nearly every day one summer while involuntarily memorizing all of the dialogue.
It’s such a classic.
One of my favorite scenes to this day was when Eric met Jack: Jack was working his shift cleaning the department store owned by U.S. Bates and was killing some time by playing with the store demo Wonder Wheel, a giant, inflated rack reminiscent of a hamster wheel. At one point, the Wonder Wheel snagged and started to deflate. As its air escaped, Jack comically attempted to help it up with the desperate words of a boxing coach encouraging his losing fighter. Eric and his security entourage watched nearby, the young boy thoroughly entertained by this man’s antics. From that moment is when Eric decided to “purchase” Jack, as his father had given him instruction to buy whatever he wanted from his father’s store.
That poor demoralized Wonder Wheel is an emblem. Laying in a clump in its plastic, deflated slump, destined for a garbage chute, it represents most parents by the end of a given summer’s break.
Here I am with very little knowledge of what is to come in my son’s first school summer break, but very much trepidation. So, I’m reading up.
The information regarding entertaining children over the summer is widespread and substantial. The Care.com article, “101 Fun Things to Do With Kids This Summer” is a bulleted list of indoor and outdoor ideas for summer entertainment for children of all ages. Most children would definitely go for blending smoothies or a park tricycle race or constructing buildings with toothpicks and marshmallows. (Where was this list when I was a kid?) The Spruce published a similar article that included such awesome concepts in its directory as family slumber parties or planting a butterfly garden.
There are sleep-away camps, DIY camps, sports camps, space camps, art camps. There’s computer classes, exercise classes, scouts. There’s kiddie yoga, film academy, martial arts, swimming events, theater programs, talent shows, pool parties, beach visits, and out-of-town travel.
Some of these are even free. “Free” works well for most parents.
I’m reviewing all, scribbling notes, and taking screenshots. I’m planning and researching and innovating. This work may be in vain, though.
I can present all kinds of creative propositions for Jrue and Jai, as I have done in the past with Jrue during at-home Tot School prior to daycare. But the thing is, they are just so…disinterested. My children are often minimally stimulated and seem most satisfied in the same old activities they do nearly every day.
This has to mean that either they are super low maintenance or that mommy’s kind of fun is not their kind of fun. It had never occurred to me that mommy may be…boring.
Jrue picks up several knick knacks and carries them around the house wherever he goes, even if it’s to the sofa for a movie. His bundle can include a remote control, four letter magnets from the fridge, his bubble gun, a teddy bear, a cloth from the kitchen, a construction truck, and the cord for my husband’s headphones. When I suggest a Hot Wheels race or car wash in the garage, he will participate for 10 minutes out of obligation, then go right back to sitting, merely sitting, with his stack of playthings.
We’ll pack up and go to the park for swinging and sliding. When we get there, Jrue stands around and watches the other kids play while giggling at high speed. Mommy and Jrue take many walks around the neighborhood to offset his apathy for his brand-new bicycle. Outside, though, is usually “too hot,” or he just wants to “drive” in the car. In the air conditioning, I suppose.
I can’t be mad at that one.
Jai stomps around the house for hours, existing in her own bubble, taking care to taste all on the floor at her feet. This means that painting with Jrue is in limbo until she takes a nap because she will put the watercolors in her mouth. Dry books are in jeopardy. Beading is most definitely in danger. Most activities that may energize Jrue may be too risky for the house because of Jai’s oral comforts.
She truly does eat everything.
So, where am I? My children are too young at the moment to understand the indulgences of summer break, yet may feel the tedium that most children eventually complain about. This time next year, we’ll be prepping Jrue for kindergarten, and Jai will be a full-blown two-year-old, so times will change quicker than I think I realize.
I believe the best method today is to enjoy their easy dispositions while I have them and to pile up a sky-high list of things to do during summer breaks to have when needed.
Eventually, I can be as eager as the Wonder Wheel…bright, playful, and full of invested air.
Cheers to avoiding punctures.
Brunelli, Laureen Miles. “100 Summer Fun Ideas for Kids and Parents.” The Spruce, Apr. 26, 2017, https://www.thespruce.com/summer-fun-ideas-kids-and-parents-3542627. Accessed Jul. 4, 2017.
Jacobs, Ilene. “101 Fun Things to Do With Kids This Summer.” Care.com, n.d., https://www.care.com/c/stories/3331/101-fun-things-to-do-with-kids-this-summer/. Accessed Jul. 4, 2017.