Intersections – Go the f*k back to school

Posted by August 4, 2014


By Nicki Salcedo, contributor

Dear Teachers, you may ask my kids what they did this summer. I’m not sure what they will say, but I’ll tell you the truth.

To some, we wasted our summer. I did not send my kids to sleep away camp. They can sleep away when they get to college. They have had their fill of sports and art and music camps. My kids wanted to stay at home. They wanted to stay at Nana’s house. They wanted to play with their cousins. They asked to do nothing.

We don’t know how to do nothing. And yet nothing is my favorite thing. Doing nothing is a long lost friend. I spent my childhood summers doing nothing. I never went to day camp or sleep away camp. My afternoons were alone doing nothing. I grew up in a lot of quiet and boredom.

As soon as this summer started, my kids missed school. They wanted the learning and the structure. I thought I could replicate this. I thought mommy-summer-camp-of-nothing was a great idea. Here is what happened and why they need to go back the f*k to school.

They ate sliced watermelon off of Christmas plates. They watched every episode of Justice League on Netflix. We filled the little free libraries with books. We prowled the streets for art on a “Free Art Friday Atlanta” #fafatl scavenger hunt. We got care packages from Taiwan and Bosnia. We met author Chris Colfer. We paraded on July 4th and waved American flags. Without my help, they made silly putty. Seriously.

We dance partied to my favorite songs from my college days and discovered most are inappropriate for kids. One of my kids is rhythmless. One has a little too much rhythm for my comfort. We watched young Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5ive sing “ABC,” a good song when you are missing school. We watched older Michael Jackson sing, and they still danced. We had dance party to new songs. I panicked when I heard the lyrics, “Trash the hotel . . . Let’s get drunk on the mini bar.” My kids needed the guidance of a real music teacher.

The cousins taught them to play poker with poker chips. Kids playing poker is a lot like that painting of dogs playing poker, but with more crying. It turned out that the teen cousins don’t know how to play poker, either.

They read more this summer than other summers. Just at the point when TV and nothingness has thoroughly fried your brain, a book becomes a delicious retreat.

We went to every park. We went to Fernbank 20 gazillion times. They were too scared to see the shark IMAX movie, but then spent hours sitting in a replica of a whale heart. That’s scary. Ask Jonah.

Security busted us at the High Museum of Art for unauthorized use of our sketch books. Then we got the badged with official artist passes so we could continue to steal creativity from other creative canvases.

We went to the pool. We contemplated the burning pain of sunscreen on your face and the burning pain of too much sun. We enjoyed a few naps induced by sun and chlorine and sand and saltwater. We went to the beach without our boogie boards even though we used the boogie boards on snow days.

I made them watch old Star Trek and newer Star Trek. The kids developed serious concerns about the state of Starfleet and Ferengi affairs. Maybe I was doing this summer thing right.

I love snow days, and I love summer. We don’t want summer to end, but we missed learning after the chaos of nothing. I heard the voices of my kids’ teachers all summer. “Do you know what Miss so-and-so says about tornados?” “Do you know what Mister what’s-his-name told us about the Piedmont Region?” All year we long for summer. Then summer arrives, and we long for school. Now our longing is over.

I hope you enjoyed your summer. But my kids need to go back to school. They need to go the f*k to school. I’ve never seen so much laundry and dirty dishes and garbage and happiness in my entire life. Kids are funny. They observe. They reflect. Don’t forget your sunglasses these first few weeks of school. If you look deep into their eyes you will still see the sunshine of summer.

Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, normally runs every Wednesday morning, but we ran it earlier this week to coincide with the first day of school. 


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  • Shon

    I Love this! We had a similar “nothing” summer.

    • Nicki Salcedo

      I wish my life had more nothing and more naps. Thank you for reading this.

  • Mamie

    At the end of summer, I promise that next year we will revel in the serendipitous learning that happens during time spent doing nothing. Then when summer camp registration comes up again, I fall prey to the marketing, chicken out, and sign them up for programming and soccer and fashion camp. But next summer…I promise!

    • Decatur Mom

      It’s a nice thought but some of us need to work full time and summer camp is a necessity not something we fall prey to or something we can even avoid. Although I normally enjoy Nicki’s pieces, this one left me feeling more than a little insulted.

      • EAVer

        Maybe you took this a little too literally, and maybe personally. I don’t thinks it’s prescriptive, more aspirational.

        • RHM

          I know this author well and in addition to writing fabulous novels, she works a very traditional job (more than 0 hours a week plus frequent travel) at a pretty major companyshe is the epitome of the crazy juggling working mom. To me, athis article reminds me that regardless of my financial realities or career choices, my kids deserve and need a break in the summer. To quote my son who was burnt out on summer camps a few years ago, “Mom, just because you work doesn’t mean that we have to”.
          Nicki – you continue to amaze me! Thanks for another hearty laugh. You forgot the sand in hair drama 🙂

          • RHM

            Typo – she works 60 hours a week

          • Nicki Salcedo

            70 hours. That’s only job 1. I have 3 jobs not including being a mom. I love when people think I don’t work. I consider it a compliment that they can’t see the duck feet paddling beneath the surface. And I appreciate all the comments!

          • Elizabeth B

            Dear Lord, how do you do that? I only have 2 kids and can barely manage 10-15 hrs of work a week. And haven’t looked at my dissertation in a month. Rock on!

          • Nicki Salcedo

            I want to look at your dissertation! 1 kid or 22 kids, we can all barely manage. Increasing the number of kids only increases the number of faces that mock you. How do I do it? I have a very very nice rock star mom who lives nearby. I also keep my expectations very low. Good luck on your dissertation. You better look at it this week. 🙂 Love, Mom.

          • Nicki Salcedo

            I was trying to take the lemons of our summer and turn them into lemonade. The sand incident was not lemons. It was acid. I’m still finding sand in strange places. I am mad at sand.

        • Nicki Salcedo

          EAVer, According to the dictionary, “literally” now also means “figuratively.” My apologies. But aspirational remains the same. Unless you meant throwing up into your lungs. Then I hope you mean something different.

      • Nicki Salcedo

        My friends represent the various choices parents make. Some of my friends represent those who are child-free. I do not feel guilty for working. I do not feel guilty for spending time with my kids. I also refuse to judge myself based on other people’s parenting decisions. Wait, that’s a lie. I judge myself based on my mother’s parenting decisions. She was a rock star. Here is a letter between two moms. I hope this takes the insult away from your feelings.

    • Nicki Salcedo

      Mamie, school has started and I promise to get on the wait list for that summer camp at Tahoe. I promise. I will not be discouraged by time, price, or distance. I shall meet you by the lake for Shakespeare. Followed by tennis. Next summer…I promise!

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