Summer Fun
June 18, 2024 by Mason Bell

Raised in the 80s, my parents kicked me outside at dawn, leaving me to explore the neighborhood until high noon when a single baloney sandwich passed through the door. Gen X experienced true freedom to make mud pies, run through alleyways and backyards, and get stuck in trees for the better half of the day. Parents didn’t care what you did, so long as the house stayed clean!

Becoming a parent myself raised the age-old question. Should I let them discover nature and solve conflicts on their own? Or should I do the opposite of my parents and protect them from every possible failure?

When they were old enough, the children were granted the freedom to explore their world, albeit within a safe distance. Weekend bike rides to the donut store and library had them securing their pocket change for the soda machine. Yes, they played RuneScape on the library computer, but the journey there taught them road safety, how to look out for each other, and gave them control over how they spent their time.

After a scorching summer day in the Texas heat, we seized the chance to gather them near. Nothing was better than milk and cookies in a cool, dark living room, watching SpongeBob and laughing at the silly antics and jokes. My kids learned the importance of humor and comedic timing from those shows, which has provided us with decades of fun and laughter.

Don’t get me wrong. The structure of public school—studying, doing homework, playing stringed instruments—certainly has its place, but summer is about discovering who you are and what is important in life, like responsibility and independence. Emotional intelligence is as valuable as knowledge, and both can fit into a single year without guilt.

Decades of this practical approach to parenting have paid off in my family. My oldest works a salaried job at a tech company, providing for himself and his wife. My middle child is finishing his Masters in AI and Machine Learning, with bright career prospects. The youngest graduated with a BA in Linguistics and a minor in Chinese. In the fall, she will start her Masters in Spanish Education.

Sometimes adults misremember what it’s like to be young, forgetting that life balance isn’t granted by a fairy godmother when we turn eighteen. Balance begins early in life with lots of practice and a hands-on approach. By stressing the importance of education and self-care, kids will be better prepared for the challenges of the future. What are you doing with your kids/grandkids this summer?
Are you allowing time for life balancing activities?