Between a rock and a hard place

Summer is quickly approaching, and school is about to be out.  Parents and their teenaged or college aged children are suddenly looking at the weeks ahead and wondering....  some with excitement and some with dread and many with ambivalence because we adults don't get to have "summer" the way the kids do.

No doubt most of the younger set are looking for some down time while at least a few of the parents see a potential wasteland of couch potatoes, video game controllers in hand, lying among the crumpled potato chip bags.  Didn't we mean to sign them up for some camps?  Didn't we mean for them to get summer jobs?

The economy may be reviving, ever so slowly, but there are still a dearth of jobs out there, especially for the unskilled and inexperienced.  Many teens have so many extra curricular activities that getting a job during the school year and perhaps the summer as well has been out of the question.  And now all are wishing for meaningful summer activity with at least enough down time worked in to feel as if they've had a summer.

When I was a teen, I spent much of my summer swimming or playing golf or lying on my back in the grass looking at the sky.  But for at least one week during the summer, I often had a job, helping out with Vacation Bible School.  I supervised little kids and their popsicle-stick projects, babysat in the nursery, read stories to the older children, and played the piano for our daily morning assembly.  We sang songs like God of Our Fathers (the piano has a great part on that one - da da da DUM DUM) and America the Beautiful.  Looking back, I realize how much we conflated religion and patriotism in those cold war days.  At least we did in our church.

The ideal summer has meaningful work, fun, travel, and time for both enjoying relationships and digging into a hobby or skill.  There is time to linger, time to slow down and deepen relationships, time to learn a new skill or perfect one.  Time to look for meaning and time to be silly and lighthearted.  Time to even "waste" just lying on one's back looking at the clouds or watching the waves.  Time to read what one wants to read instead of an assignment.

But we are all used to being scheduled now, even though we know that most of us and our children are and have been overscheduled.

What I want to remember is that summer is just different.  And to thank God for that.


Dom said…
Hi Penny,

Nice post.

I have one comment about your statement regarding conflating religion and patriotism. I think that we continue to do this even now. It often bothers me that most churches (including Episcopal churches) that I've been in have the American flag on display in the sanctuary - usually behind and to the left or right of the alter. I don't mean to be unpatriotic, but it makes me wonder if we go to church to worship God or to profess loyalty to a country.

At any rate, I recently joined an Episcopal parish in downtown Austin, TX. The church is very narrow (kind of a basilica style), and perhaps for this reason, the American flag is in the parish hall rather than in the church proper. Whatever the reason for the placement of the flag, it is really nice to have only religious symbols and paintings in the sanctuary rather than the flag of one's country. It is a reminder that church is a place to worship God (rather than country), and that we are first and foremost Christians, regardless of what country we live in. Just my opinion....
Thanks, Dom. I hear you - and I see varying ways of displaying or not displaying flag in church or around church. While in my youth at VBS, flags were actually processed into the hall (a Christian flag and an American flag) during the opening hymn, and we pledged allegiance to both, no one that I know of does that any more. I know of some places where the flag was moved out of the sanctuary into the parish hall, perhaps in the hope that it would be moved out of the building eventually; other places display a flag at certain times, such as Memorial Day or July 4th weekend; while others have a flag somewhere in the church as you mention. I do prefer to think of myself as belonging to something larger than country, as symbolized by our altar and the bread and wine we put on it. And yet I know that many feel that love of country is bound up with love of God. My parents certainly felt that way.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Perpetua said…
I can't and shouldn't comment about the presence of the flag as we British don't pledge allegiance as you do.

What strikes me from across here is how soon your children will be on holiday! My grandsons still have 2 full months of school before their summer holidays will start and then they will only get 6 weeks. I'd better not tell them about this or they will want their parents to emigrate :-)
Yes, Perpetua, we have a different school scheme - the school year starts mid-August and finishes up before the end of May with about 11 weeks in between for vacation. There are some school systems that go "year round" meaning that they have a couple of weeks off three or four times a year and then a month in the summer. Supposed to help with retention of material, but it also is difficult for some working parents. At any rate, my younger son finishes up a week from today.