The very notion of an “Endless Summer” — long days filled with barbecues, swimming pools and little league baseball games — has become a myth. It’s become a myth as cliche as a Country Time Lemonade commercial and as corny as a Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello movie.
Somewhere in between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we have lost our collective way as a society. Somewhere, somehow, summer became hard work.
I’m pretty sure America has forgotten how to relax and soak up the sun.
Or, at the very least, as we rapidly approach the end of yet another summer, I have.
It used to be that summers seemed to stretch out forever once school let out — so long that by the time late August rolled around, children were starting to get bored and actually looked forward to school starting again so they could have some sort of structure back in their lives. It means sleeping in, lounging by the pool and not needing to be any particular place at any particular time.
It was a glorious, Norman Rockwell-ian time to be alive.
These days, we have kids so scheduled so tight they don’t really have time to be kids anymore. School gets out later and starts sooner — or it certainly seems that way. They are sweating it out in classrooms well into the first week of June and repeating it all over again by mid-August.
And when they aren’t in school, we have put them in sports camps, music camps, art camps and every other sort of activity imaginable. Remember when kids used to do things like play baseball in the park with their friends using a set of rules that only vaguely resembled those of the Great American Pastime? How about games like kickball and kick the can? Nearly gone and forgotten from the American landscape.
Why? Probably because after playing on four different traveling baseball teams and heading off to two different soccer camps throughout the summer, they are too exhausted at night to go out and chase lightning bugs.
And don’t get me wrong — as a parent of two young children, I’m as guilty of this trend as anyone. My kids have attended — and enjoyed — every activity we have scheduled for them. Kudos to all who have worked with my children this summer. Part of the problem is that in our household, with two working parents, we are forced to take such measures. I’m guessing we aren’t the only parents around here who have to do the same thing. If it weren’t for all the camps and activities available to children, many working parents would be left in a bind.
It’s just a shame that it has to be that way.
And it’s not just the kids who don’t get a chance to enjoy their summers anymore. The lack of summer fun has trickled into adulthood, as well.
Remember when family vacations used to consist of a full tank of a gas, a station wagon, a cooler filled with sandwiches and the open road? Remember when the journey was frequently more enjoyable than the actual destination? It used to be the family piled into the car, hit the road and didn’t stop to rest until dad had said, “Darn it! Don’t think I won’t turn this car around and go home!” (or, alternately, “Don’t make me come back there!”) at least five times.
Those days have passed us by like a warm summer breeze.
Folks these days are too over-scheduled to mess around with such frivolity. Vacation time is limited and it’s about having fun at any and all costs! We will be inside the gates at Disney by no later than 9:04 a.m. We will be on Space Mountain by 10:13 a.m. We will follow with a light lunch, then it’s off to the Hall of Presidents! We have an itinerary to follow! I dropped $5,000 and we will have fun! Enjoyment and family bonding is mandatory! Hey … it’s time for a selfie with Mickey Mouse, so you better stop crying! We are making memories that need to stand the test of time on Instagram!
It’s no one’s fault it has all come to this, mind you. It’s merely a function of our overburdened society.
Still, though, there’s only a handful of days left this summer. Enjoy them while they last.
Catch a few lightning bugs for me.
David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong