School is out. Summer is here. It's time for a break. It's time to slow down, sit on the porch, sit on the stoop or sit in a folding chair at the beach.

Vacation does not have to take place in a far-flung corner of the world, although those can be stimulating. Stimulating, not necessarily restful.

Advertisement

In 2016 North Baltimore, it seems to me that some summer rest is needed. Adults and children go quite a clip most of the year. Many adults have long working hours, well beyond eight-hour days with additional responsibilities at children's schools, in religious organizations and in a host of Baltimore nonprofits.

With increased hours that adults work, their children's lives have more scheduled activities than did those of their parents' childhoods. Many children today are in after-school programs or rec league sports with long hours. It is good to foster children's interests, to give them opportunities for exploration and to encourage physical activity. It is also good to offer opportunities to do nothing, to foster some down time and creative pursuits that can result from being a little bored.

Too much pressure and too many scheduled activities can lead to exhausted young people, sometimes burned out by college or shortly thereafter. Life is long. It's important not to burn out before the challenges of adult life.

For adults, with the financial responsibilities for raising children, and trying to fund the exorbitant cost of education and life in America, a summer break is important, too.

Recently, I baby-sat our 8-year-old great-nephew. His parents have full-time jobs. This particular week of summer vacation, before his beloved day camp started, his parents arranged to work from home or to have older relatives, like me, help.

Many ideas of things to do filled my head before going over that Wednesday, "the hump day" he told me soon after I arrived. Swimming had been at the top of my list, but the morning was rainy. After his breakfast I remembered that I had forgotten to buy a card for a friend celebrating a birthday. First thing we did was to sit at the dining-room table while I drew a card, and he drew a two-page cartoon.

We then toured some of his latest Lego constructions, free form and otherwise. I gave him a new Lego construction, the Eiffel Tower. He sat on the floor building, and I sat on the floor beside him holding open the pages of the instructions booklet.

I had not sat on any floor during the chokingly busy weeks since I had seen him last. I had not gone to yoga for floor time either. I had not even sat in the garden to weed. I had barely sat on our sofa. This spring, every time I sat down to do anything but write I fell asleep.

Sitting on the floor on a weekday morning looking at Lego pieces while the great-nephew assembled them felt good. I was not the least bit bored. I read aloud the pages about the history of the Eiffel Tower. On my phone I found pictures of it lighted at night and videos of another tall and lighted building, the Empire State building, that he had visited during his spring break. We talked about the color combinations of the lights, the background music to the videos. He hummed and built. When the music stopped, he kept humming. He took a break from building to play two of his current favorite songs: "Here Comes the Sun" and the "Hallelujah" chorus. During the school year he takes piano lessons.

When he finished building, we photographed the Eiffel Tower and marveled that the real one had taken only a few months more than two years to complete. When I asked him if he wanted to go out for lunch or stay home, he said, "Stay home."

He read while I fixed us some lunch, and he continued to read while we ate. I am not a stickler about reading at the table. I am thrilled when children enjoy reading. After lunch he started a game new to me. The object was to think of two things that normally do not go together, but when put together, make a funny idea. One example was a book falling off a mountain. We love games like this.

While he did some creative Lego building alone in the bay window, I stretched out on the nearby sofa. I nodded off a few minutes before he awoke me with a question and a smile.

I then remembered I had to check my email about a writing project. Afterward, he showed me some computer tricks his mother had taught him. I then started a story by writing one sentence and handed him the computer to add another. We didn't finish the story before his father came home.

We can do that, and another, the next time we luxuriate in an unstructured, rejuvenating summer day together.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement