Wednesday, September 04, 2013

I Don't Want Summer To End

I don't want summer to end. 

I want to grow up, but not right now, not on today of all days. 

I don't need people telling me what to do, where to be, and who I ought to be. I shouldn't be expected to jump through hoops other than the ones I set up for myself. 

And I should get to do it outdoors with weather all around me. I should get to do it with my friends or without them or after them or before them or while holding hands.

Summer is the promise of what life could be.

Summer is also a grim reminder that too many of our children will grow up to work too many hours in jobs they hate, earning barely enough to get by while work ethic fetishists cluck about how that's the way it should be. I know this is true because too many adults do it now. They will love their families, of course, but only see them for some precious minutes in the evenings, if that, and often not even during the "little summer" of weekends, which are for too many a memory from their parents' time.

Not our children, we say: they will grow up well-educated, with grand aspirations, but look around. Who doesn't work all the time any more? Lawyers do. Doctors do. Even athletes, the players of games, work year round. Who doesn't strap themselves to a schedule of appointments and meetings and "to do" lists. Who can honestly say, "I'll be the boss of me; you be the boss of you?"

You know who had more free time than we do today? Medieval peasants, who got anywhere from eight weeks to six months of "summer," while the modern American is lucky to get ten days.

. . . economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year . . . Go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours at all. In addition to relaxing during long holidays, the medieval peasant took his sweet time eating meals, and the day often included time for an afternoon snooze. "The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed," notes Shor. "Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure."

Shor's research also finds that our current obsession with placing work over play is an historical aberration. There has been no other time in history during which our work-play lives were so out of balance. From this perspective, it's easy to speculate that we are suffering from a kind of mass psychosis, one based upon the religion of economics, one that places us at the service of the economy, rather than the other way around.

At the beginning of this summer I wrote a post in which I bemoaned the trend toward filling our children's summers with flash cards and worksheets, out of fear of what is labeled "academic regression." Here at the end of summer, I'm again aware of how this has really become too much the nature of our entire society.

There are those who will tell me I need to grow up. 

I don't want summer to end.

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Anonymous said...

many of your posts make me smile and cry at the same time...thank you for taking the time

mumsy said...

This summer I stepped out of my life into my nieces life. She has four children ages 6-14 and for fun I added my six year old grand son into the mix. My niece had gone on a mission/aid trip to Uganda where she worked in the area of women's health and social issues. I spent my summer playing with her children, hitting the beach, the pool, the swimming hole, the playgrounds, and so on, or ( to the untrained eyes of other adults) doing nothing at all....I didn't want summer to end either.