At the risk of branding myself as a Pollyanna (does anyone still know what that is?), I think there may be a silver lining to a recession. No one wants to see people lose their homes or suffer the stresses that come with a downturn in the economy -- but some of our values are in desperate need of recalibration. Hard times can do that.
I have a fantasy. For those of you who have read my posts before and know where I come from as a child therapist, the fantasy probably won't surprise you. Imagine this.
The parent(s) have reviewed their financial situation and decided they will have to make some changes. Last summer the kids went away to camp for a month and the other month took three lessons each. The rest of the time, they mainly fought over the computer and ate cupcakes and cereal in front of the television.
They sit down with their children -- who are in this fantasy eight and 10 years old -- and break the news. It might go something like this:
"We're going to be making some changes this summer. We hope they're going to turn our really well, but you may be a little taken aback at first. We are going to be spending less money than we usually do and it's just possible that it will turn out to be a lot of fun.
"Here's the plan. You won't be going away to camp this summer. We're also going to cut back on lessons from June through the end of August. Your sixteen year old cousin will be coming to stay with us and she is going to take care of you when we're at work. She'll take you to the park and swimming when the weather is good. Sometimes she'll also take you to the kids' club and to community activities and to places like the library. You'll be taking public transportation and bringing lunch with you. You'll spend lots of time just hanging out and playing with the kids in the neighborhood. Your cousin likes to do arts and crafts, she plays soccer, and she likes boardgames. You'll be able to sleep in and - as long as she tells us you've been cooperating with her - you'll be able to stay up late.
We'll make sure there's always ice cream in the freezer and ice cream cones. Over the weekends, we'll be taking day trips together. We'll spend a week on a family vacation in August. We won't be flying anywhere, like we did last year, but we'll all decide together on something that will be fun. We hope that's good news. We don't think you're going to like the next part though. We're discontinuing cable television for the summer. We'll reconsider it for the winter though."
How does that sound to you? How do you think your children would react? If you - or they - worry about being bored then they're probably over-scheduled.
I'm not the only one wishing for a simpler, (and cheaper) summer experience. Check out Michelle Turk's and Julie Tilsner's posts on the topic, too.
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