July 2, 2012
By Jill Rothenbueler Maher
School’s out, but the hectic pace remains. Between day care, the neighborhood’s summer events like Chill on the Hill and the farmers market, play dates, and visits with family; it’s hard to steal enough time to achieve a summer slowdown. Center-based programs (day care centers, prekindergartens, nursery schools, Head Start programs, and other early childhood education programs) consume most of the day.
When school is in session, a hefty 57 percent of 3 to 6-year-olds who are not yet in kindergarten are at a center, according to childstats.gov. Presumably, most of them continue at a center for the so-called summer break. The days that I work in an office mean our daughter spends nine and a half hours away from home. I’m glad my husband and I live so close to our employers and that Milwaukee lacks huge traffic tie-ups because longer commutes would further extend the days. Evenings and weekends are frequently filled with additional high-stimulation time like grocery store trips or errands to other bustling stores. (At some of those stores, parents cannot focus on the child even in the checkout lane because self-checkout is required.) Kids come along at night or on Saturday or Sunday because their parents are at work weekdays.
Studies show that workers are spending more of each week on the job than in the recent past. Parents find it very difficult to provide any down time at home when kids aren’t bathing, eating, or focused on some glowing rectangle like a TV, laptop, tablet, or smart phone. Time playing with chalk on the sidewalk or running through a sprinkler with friends, or simply talking or playing a game with a parent, gets squeezed.
Summer might seem like a break from the fast pace of life for our children, but that isn’t reality. Parents wonder which classes or camps they should enroll their children in and how early to enroll them in ballet, soccer, or violin to keep them from falling behind their peers.
Parents are rushing to see the dinosaur exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo and visit far-flung relatives.
But for other parents, summer means struggling to figure out how to keep their kids safe and nourished without the support of school.
Some might feel it socially unacceptable to ask, “How will you relax this summer?” but that may be a wiser question than “What classes are you signing up for?” or “Are you going on any trips?”
The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.