Forty-eight rabid zebras were the last thing we expected to see on the front lawn this morning. Here’s some advice for parents to deal with the summer!
If you’re confused, that’s because the second sentence in the paragraph was guaranteed to make half the audience turn the page. I’m a parent, and advice about summer activities doesn’t do anything for me. But: Minneapolis schools, ever bent on dragging the school year into June like a sack of wet moldy books, ends Friday. The bell rings, the doors open, and the great long lawn of summer stretches unto the horizon, populated with endless possibilities. They pause at the door, close their eyes, breathe deep, and expunge 72 percent of everything they learned the past year.
This is why they seem lightheaded with joy when they come home. And thirsty: shedding that much algebra all at once is hard on a growing child. Anyway, now it’s time for a weekend of freedom before Activities begin. If you do not put them into Activities they will turn into slumped husks curled around smartphones. Right?
Wrong. In my day we did not have Activities, because times were simpler, purer, and worse. Cue the old-coot litany: why, we left the house at 6 a.m. on our bikes, went to the quarry to play with blasting caps, shot marbles with the hobos at the train yard and had their hobo stew, shot up the watermelons at Old Man Johnson’s place with the rifle Timmy got from his Dad, then made our way home at dusk by reading the stars and sensing the magnetic fields of the Earth.
Simpler times! Dangerous, yes, but families had many kids, so one falls down the old abandoned mine on the edge of town, you had spares. But we amused ourselves because there were few Official Activities provided by the city. Oh, there was summer school, but to kids those two words did not belong together at all. It was like Ketchup Ice Cream or Goldfish Pudding or Cookie Dentist. When you drove past a school that had summer programs, you imagined peers in gray uniforms banging tin cups on the bars.
But now we have programs. We have camps, a name applied to something that has absolutely no camp attributes whatsoever. Balloon Camp! We will blow up balloons and decorate them with eyeballs and mouths cut out of magazines. Ages 2-4. Latex free. $35. Non-parents will scoff, but parents eager to fill up the kid’s day and keep them from turning into a sack of jelly will ask: all day or just mornings? Is it full up? I should have registered last March.
Don’t worry. The city of Minneapolis has a website devoted to helping parents do something with the kids, and it’s called “What’s Up 612?” That’s the way you get them: hip, with-it slang. What’s happening, kids?
I could give you a list of classes, but it doesn’t matter what they are. I have paid for “classes” that consisted of nothing more than kids sitting around looking at each other’s Pokemon cards. After a while you stop looking too closely at the class descriptions, because they’re all like this:
Alphabet Fun! Students will recite the alphabet while the Teen teacher Snapchats on her phone for three hours, looking up periodically to say “keep going.” All ages.
Painting Stuff on Rocks. Geology is radical! Students will daub small pieces of igneous and metamorphic rocks with finger paints and be lavishly praised. Smart children will recognize the compliments for the empty sentiments they are, and develop a healthy skepticism of authority; gullible children will welcome the meaningless attempt to inflate their egos. Pre-K. $100.
Let’s Be Vets. Animal-loving kids will be vastly disappointed to find out they’re actually going to pretend to be retired soldiers. Lessons learned: patriotism, self-sacrifice, the concept of “nonrefundable deposit.”
How To Identify Batteries. Kids get a “charge” out of learning the difference between a C cell and D cell! Includes a field trip to the hardware store to test their newfound knowledge.
Gramsci’s Influence on Sociological Marxism. Children will learn about the theory of Cultural Hegemonism, and the means by which the established order is perpetuated through manipulation of institutions. $25. If you do not wish your child to be denounced as a proto-Trotsky syndicalist with revanchist tendencies, $45. Class will hold a show trial on Friday; all are welcome!
Super Glue ’n’ You! Child will be bonded to heavy objects, so they can’t get far. All day. (Someone will check the room periodically.)
There should be a week where it’s the kids who go to work, and the parents get the classes. The kids have to tromp inside a glass building on a gorgeous day and sit in a dark room while someone runs a PowerPoint about Optimizing Strategies or Strategic Optimization, and the parents sit in a room with the windows open and make wine glass charms out of tinfoil and beads. They might have more appreciation for Mom and Dad afterward.
If they don’t already, of course. If you’re lucky you can spend more time with your kid in the summer, and enjoy this sweet clement season together.
More likely you’ll just say “there were 48 rabid zebras on the lawn” at 11 a.m. when they’re having breakfast because the kid just got up, and isn’t listening to a word you say. Best thing about that? It’s free.