It’s 10:23 a.m. It’s 68 degrees, so I have the sliding glass door in my bedroom open, so I can hear birds chirping (I know it’s so damn cliché to write that I hear birds chirping, but there are literally dozens of birds hollering and carrying-on out there. My guess is they are still mad about being assaulted by colored sparks and smoke — being that yesterday was July 4th). I also hear the sounds of other kids “summering” — yelling at someone to “watch this” as they do some flip into a pool, speeding down the hill and past my house on bikes and scooters, cheers as they play some competitive game at the camp being held at the elementary school that my kids used to attend.
My youngest son, on the other hand, is still asleep. He will stay asleep unless and until I lead the dogs into his room to jump on him with excitement like he has just come home from war, instead of having just seen him last night. He will be irritated, somewhat indignant, as he always is. He loves sleep and regards be woken up as a personal affront.
My oldest son is laying on the couch downstairs that used to be crème, but has since devolved into what I think Crayola would title “Gross Greige” — watching something that has probably been reported on NPR as killing brain cells.
And I’m having one of those moments where I’m questioning my ability to raise high-functioning, super-successful kids. I’m far enough into the game where I’m confident that they will be productive adults: graduate from college, get a job and not break any major laws; but beyond that I’m not so sure. I AM the woman after all who has two boys and bought a crème couch (obviously, my judgment can be off sometimes).
When I was a kid, my parents shipped me off to my grandparents’ house so quickly after school ended that I barely had time to unpack my backpack and lunchbox before they had my suitcase packed (Damn. I guess bonding-time wasn’t in back then). I’d arrive to my grandparents’ tiny Texas town, where it would be 10-degrees past hell and hangout with my cousins all summer. We’d work in my family’s country store, eat canned Spaghettio’s daily for lunch, play Jacks and watch cartoons. Whatever we did, it was for us to plan. The only guidance I remember was not to burn the house down – and to be home before dark. No one seemed to care about our recreation or our education.
Now the Sylvan Learning Centers commercial taunts me, “Your kid loses half of what they learned all year during the summer.” My friends are sending their kids to coding camps where they will develop their own application; science camps where they will dissect amphibians and small mammals; environmental conservancy camps where they will help construct a recycling program in an impoverished community. They are doing 8 weeks of Kumon to get ahead in math or studying with an exchange student to advance their Spanish speaking.
Nowadays, it’s absolutely expected that your kids are doing something, as evidenced by the frequent question: so what are your kids doing this summer? And for a few weeks this summer my kids are participating in some activities that won’t necessarily reinforce anything that they learned in school; but will hopefully broaden their minds.
But for right now they are chill-laxing. I like that they get to sleep late, eat sugary cereal that I never allow them to have, and not think of much more than what day does “American Ninja Warrior” come on. We, the entire family, get along so much better because I’m not hurriedly trying to get them somewhere, bugging them about grades and bedtimes. They aren’t, in-turn, stressed about grades and me being late picking them up from somewhere. Their chill-axing is enjoyed by the entire family.
The best part about being a kid to me was having nothing: nothing to worry about and nothing to do. It’s a precious and fleeting state — because now that we are adults there is always, pervasively and unforgivably something.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more