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It’s summer — let the kids hang out and have fun

SHARE It’s summer — let the kids hang out and have fun

Excuse me for sounding like a broken record, but it's summertime — would parents everywhere please lighten up?

I realize my kids are going to be severely damaged because they are not going to science camp, computer camp, intense weeks-long sports camps and so on. They are not in days-long academic programs or music classes. They are not being drilled in "the table of elements." (Seriously, I know some kids who do that.)

We're just going to have fun. They'll survive.

For starters, we just got back from hanging out for two weeks at Powers Lake in Wisconsin. There was nothing but water play and fishing the whole time. Members of my large family from the Chicago area were regularly in and out for the two weeks.

I needed a matrix to figure out who was coming when. It was wonderful. One of my brothers came to refer to his time at the beautiful lake house we rented as "his" vacation. That's family for you.

Stress consisted of "Did you put the sun block on the kids?"

In fact, I took my two older kids out of school for the last 10 days of the academic year so we could make that trip. That really freaked out a lot of parents I know who wouldn't let their kids miss a day of school unless they were hooked up to an IV. Guess what — my kids won't be kept out of Harvard because of it. They'll be kept out of Harvard for a lot of other reasons but not because they missed the last 10 days of school this year.

Now we're back, and most days it's off to the pool or an afternoon movie matinee. There will be a few golf lessons for the kids, and we're keeping up with piano. Oh, and I have them do a lot of reading. There are a few day trips planned and some summer concerts — and that's about it.

There is a whole lot of playtime. I'm famous around here for saying things like, "I'm not the entertainment committee," "You may not go anywhere near the TV" and "Do not come inside until I tell you you may come in. If you get thirsty there's the garden hose."

My basement is a labyrinth of forts, the freezer is full of Popsicles. The kids each have a few pairs of shorts and some T-shirts, a pair of sneakers and a pair of sandals, and the "Mosquito Deleto" is running.

That's our summer.

Look, I sometimes fantasize about how organized my life would be if my four little ones would go off for a few weeks to summer camp. But it's just that, a fantasy. The fact is, probably nothing would get done.

When they are here and underfoot is sometimes when I seem to be the most productive.

My big task of the summer is finishing the book I've been writing on parenting. But the only way I can possibly get that done is if my children are underfoot screaming "Mommmmmm" every five minutes. (In fact, I promised myself that for the book I would literally count the number of "Mommmmmms" I heard in a day. I have a feeling the number is going to be staggering.)

Oh, the other big task is toilet-training my 3-year-old. You read that right. She just turned 3. She literally chooses and puts on her own diapers. This is pathetic. It would probably take about half a day at this point to train her, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. But it is definitely high on the to-do list.

Anyway, it really doesn't bother me that kids have a lot of planned activities during the summer. I just think summers have become achievement gauntlets for too many kids. In general, free time for children has dropped dramatically in the last two decades, and attendance at intense academic and other rigorous summer camps and classes has skyrocketed in the last few years.

It just seems to me we forget that kids need time just to create their own fun, and to be kids. Summer is a great time to let them indulge in at least a little of that.

And, it's a great time for us parents to remember that what matters most is not, in the end, whether our kids get into Harvard. Whew!

Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by e-mail at: mailtohart@aol.com.