Intersections – Go the f*k back to school
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.