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The Family Room by Michelle Martin

August 2, 2009

Lazy days of summer?

Frank called on the phone this morning, wanting to know if I remembered where his book might be.

It seemed a reasonable question at first; after all, I was looking at his book last night, and I told him I would have left it on the couch or right next to it.

Then he said that he had already been reading after I left for work, and he was reading in the kitchen, but he didn’t know what he did with the book after that.

I bit my tongue before suggesting that if he didn’t know, then how should I?

Instead, we went through the litany of possibilities: living room couch, computer desk, TV table, dining room table, on his bed, still in the kitchen, in the bathroom ...

Finally, I asked whether he’d been downstairs to see his grandparents, who are in charge of him while we’re at work. Their apartment has several advantages over ours: a bigger TV, central air conditioning, better snacks. Sure enough, there it was on their coffee table.

But his question shows why our kids spend most of their summer in a variety of day camps and programs. As much as they can be responsible enough to spend some time with only light supervision, they need direction. We try to make sure each of them has some down time during the summer — what’s summer vacation without a chance to get bored? — but we also try to give them lots of opportunities to learn, to play, to be active and to meet other kids.

Doing that and working full-time can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. This summer, Caroline and Frank have spent time in camps with academic and performing arts focuses, as well as playing hockey and baseball. They’ve been to the beach and the pool, to movies and the park. Maybe we’ll even make it to a movie in the park later.

Of course, they’ve also spent time playing on the computer and playing Wii and watching TV and reading. For the first time this year, Caroline is no longer reading for the library’s summer reading program. Instead, she’s volunteering, listening to younger kids tell about the books they read.

This morning on the way to camp, Caroline said she wants more lazy days next year. In fact, she said that next year, she’d rather not have to go to camp at all.

I told her I didn’t think that would work so well. Lazy days make a nice break, but she can’t expect to spend three months lying around the house.

But we’ll see. Catholicism isn’t in favor of sloth, certainly, but it has a long tradition of respect for the human need to step away from life every so often to get reacquainted with our Creator. But not necessarily to get reacquainted with the Wii.

Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at [email protected].