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I remember when the time would come for summer break at Waynedale Grade School. The end of school meant that I’d be free to do anything that met my fancy all day long. I’d only be accountable for getting home for supper.

Sadly, a lot of children today never know such a thing. Practically from birth, they’re being groomed for college. Our grade school stayed open for certain hours of the day in the summer for us to go and do craft things, like making hot pads for our mothers. It was a thrill to take home a project and have our mothers rave over the masterpiece. If it rained, we still played outside and made mud pies, letting it rain on us. Our mothers might make a comment about not being bright enough to come in out of the rain, but she said it with a smile. Many kids today grow up never having walked a mile with a best friend just to talk, or not talk. They’ve been deprived by never having participated in any sport that wasn’t organized by grown-ups. I wonder if they will ever have the thrill of making paths through weedy vacant lots like the one beside our house, digging a big hole along the way, and covering it with sticks and grass in case an “enemy” came along. We were sure to gather some huge garden spiders…those big black and orange kind, and put them in the hole for endangerment. Then, if a kid came along, he would be trapped, and eaten alive by garden spiders! What fun imagining taking a prisoner right in our own jungle.

Taking spontaneity out of childhood is grand theft. It’s stealing from children to lead them to believe that it’s never okay to play just to play, and not necessarily to win. Some of the most spectacularly successful people have failed and lost many times in their lives. And it was from their failures that they learned to be humble. Failure makes one even more determined.

But, so many children are having every hour of their day programmed. Their parents don’t give them the time or space to get sweaty, dirty and so exhausted from fun and games that they simply fall into bed at days’ end. Then, to lie on line-dried, stiff, sweet sheets, dream of adventures, and awaken to sunshine on their faces. At a time when doctors are alarmed about the pediatric obesity epidemic, parents may want to lighten up some and let their children be children. Let them really experience the joy of summer vacation. These are the summers they will remember: those of unstructured fun, friends, and inventions. Let them build a go-cart out of a wooden box, and wheels discarded from some unused castoff. This is a photo from my mom that was taken in the 50s, one my brother made! It’s not that I don’t appreciate that parents today are staring at a world much different and far less innocent than when I was a child, but can’t we be broad enough to include the concept of play as fun, not necessarily educational?

Childhood is a rehearsal for life, and while academics give a young person particular sets of skills, play has taught generations of children how to be social, how to share, and most important, how to laugh until their sides hurt.


Many happy summers days to my Waynedale friends,


Mae Julian

The Waynedale News Staff
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