Summer Break in the 70s Vs. Today

Photo Credit: Someone in My Family, Summer 1976

Photo Credit: Someone in My Family, Summer 1976

Summer Break in the 70s

1.      On the last day of school watch as the kids tumble out of the big yellow school bus at the end of the street. Wave to them from the screen door while you savor your Virginia Slim. Immediately every kid in the neighborhood runs to the neighborhood empty lot where they will do who knows what until the sun sets. In the meantime you will slather yourself in iodine and baby oil, lay out on your vinyl chaise lounge and enjoy the latest Sidney Sheldon novel.


2.      When the sun goes down and the street lights flicker on, go outside and yell for the kids. They return filthy and covered in scratches, bug bites, and mud. Hose them down, hand them the bottle of Absorbine Jr., bring them in and feed them some Hamburger Helper. Later on let them make some Jiffy Pop to eat while they watch Fantasy Island. They can’t get enough of Tattoo.


3.      The next morning, after they down a few bowls of Life Cereal, send them back outside. They will spend the morning playing stick ball, building forts, fighting over whose turn it is on the old tire swing over the creek, and catching tadpoles in the muddy water. If they get into a spat, they’ll work it out, because they know if they don’t they’ll have to come home and pull weeds. If they get thirsty there’s the hose. Lunch is at noon – tuna fish or lunchmeat on white bread, Fritos, cherry Kool-Aid, double stick Popsicles for dessert, butf you’re feeling generous you can give them quarters for the ice cream truck instead.


4.      While the kids play for the rest of the day bake a pineapple upside down cake for Barbara’s Amway party.


5.      Repeat the next day, and the next until Labor Day.


6.      On special occasions, visit the community pool where the kids will splash and dive and play Marco Polo and have Chicken Fights for seven straight hours until they are burnt to a crisp and their goggle-less eyes are red and swollen shut from chlorine. They will spend several weeks after this peeling the dead skin from one another’s backs seeing who can pull off the largest piece.


7.      A few times a month, throw them all in the back of the station wagon, grab a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and haul everyone to the beach.


8.      Have a big, July 4th family reunion BBQ with plenty of hot dogs and macaroni salad. Play horseshoes in the backyard and set off some illegal fireworks when it gets dark.


Summer Break 2019

1.      Pick the kids up from school on the last day. Celebrate. For two glorious months you get a reprieve from the honking horns, and the parents who don’t know when to move forward because they won’t look up from their phones. When the kids finally get in the car, they are celebrating that there will be no more lockdown drills for the next eight weeks.


2.      Announce that your kids are going to have a 1970s summer this year. They deserve a break from the overscheduling, technology, and whatever else it is that people are saying is so bad about kids’ childhoods now. They should get to have the experiences you had as a child. We’re going old school! That means their imaginations will be nurtured by boredom and you won’t have to entertain them 24/7.


3.      Realize that you are in fact going to have to entertain them 24/7 because the overwhelming pressure and Mom guilt is unbearable and all of your children’s friends parents are humblebragging online about circus camp, vegan cooking camp, yoga surf camp, rockstar ice-skating camp and space camp. You feel inadequate. Constantly.


4.      First, try to introduce your kids to 70s TV. Schedule a Botox appointment when you realize that all the vintage shows available on streaming are now from…the 90s. The 90s was 30 years ago, not the 70s.


5.      During Arts and Crafts time, hopelessly entangle yourself in a retro macramé plant hanger. Watch a YouTube video to figure out how to do this. Still don’t figure out how to do this. Attempt latch hook and give up because who on earth needs an orange shag rug with wild mustangs on it to hang on the wall? Maybe it would look okay if we still had brown wood paneling, but it totally clashes with the sea salt grey shiplap.


6.      Children should play with each other in the summers! Look for the neighborhood kids but they’re all gone to camp or far away, fancy summer homes, so no one is around. The cul-de-sac looks like a ghost town. Dude, they could film Westworld out there it’s so desolate.


7.      Send the kids out into the yard. 15 minutes later explain to the nice policeman at your door that although your neighbor said the youngsters were unsupervised, you were in fact watching them from the window the entire time. Yes sir, you’re sorry, and you won’t let it happen again.


8.      Go online and look up the sex offender registry to see if people’s fears are overblown. There are 37 pedophiles in your development alone. The children are never going outside alone again. Ever.


9.      Throw a party with snacks from your childhood, but there are no Planters cheese balls anymore, no pudding in a can, no Hi-C or Hawaiian Punch in a can. There is nothing in a can, not to mention Jell-o pudding pops are extinct, never to be resurrected like the Jurassic Park of junk food because Bill Cosby is a rapist and he and his stupid, frozen pudding on a stick have been canceled for all eternity.


10.   Make some Kool-aid, but omg the amount of sugar in this is a serious concern. Your toddler is now terrified that the Kool Aid man is going to come crashing through your kitchen no matter how many times you explain the open floor plan to him. Make Tang Tea instead. It as good as your remember, but this is going to cost you at least two hours on the Peloton.


11.  Impulsively purchase those freezer pops that look like colored water in a long tube of plastic that come in a weird net bag, and present to children who demand to know what flavor these things even are. “Well, honey we have blue, green, purple, and cancer.”


12.  Burn the Jiffy Pop, but who cares. It was GMO.


13.  Make the children fried bologna on Wonder Bread. Your offspring turn their noses up and request “crusty bread with the good olive oil, please,” because your children have apparently turned into the Barefoot Contessa now.


14.  Plan lively, interactive outdoor adventures. Take the family to play in the stream and woods you once played in. When you arrive you realize that forest is now a lifestyle center with a pole fitness studio and a kava bar, but there is a float therapy center, so hey kids, do you want to suspend yourself naked in a dark pod of salt water and meditate for an hour? Or would that be too freaky?


15.  Go home and play in your childproofed, zero-scaped, Astroturf backyard. Encourage them to drink out of the garden hose for old time’s sake, but then notice the package it came in clearly states NOT SAFE FOR DRINKING. The hose is made of vinyl and BPA and maybe this is why Heather and Jen both had polyps removed from their colons at 42? They were champion hose drinkers back in the day, but then again, their moms also let them have Tab, so maybe the saccharin did it.


16.  Miraculously find a woodsy creek to play in and instantaneously remember every single news story you have ever heard about brain-eating amoebas and chronic Lyme disease until you have an anxiety attack and need to sit in the car and do deep breathing exercises. Maybe call your Life Coach about this.


17.  Agonize over sunscreen, the ultimate Catch-22 of Summer. No sunscreen = sunburn and melanoma. Sunscreen = that article everyone just shared on Facebook about chemicals from sunscreen seeping into your bloodstream = some other kind of excruciating death that was unclear from the article but it was bad. Make a pros and cons list. Remember your own childhood without sunscreen. Also remember that literally every woman you know has had precancerous growths burnt off of her body by dermatologists in the past year. Is that the kind of future you want for your children? IS IT?


18.  Attempt to plan a summer BBQ. Look up food-sensitivity friendly Farmhouse menus on Pinterest. Go to Homegoods and purchase $400.00 worth of rustic decorations, and as many string lights as you can find before all of your friends text you that they can’t come because they are just SO BUSY this summer. SO FREAKING BUSY.


19.  Maybe go to the movies instead? Yay, AC and summer blockbusters! The only things playing that are not in some way problematic socially, politically and culturally are the fourth installments of the third reboots of super-hero franchises you have never heard of, and live-action remakes of all the animated films your kids have already watched a hundred times on their iPads. Actually, those are problematic too. Go anyway, and remember all the great filmmaking of the70s, 80s and 90s with sad resignation as tremendous CGI explosions rock the theater’s ultra-plush reclining loveseats.


20.  Pay almost $100.00 for 4 tickets, popcorn and 1 soda to share. Before you sit down, scan the theater for all exits. Create an escape plan in your mind to get everyone out quickly in case someone starts shooting.


21.  Take the children to the diner you loved as a child. It is now a hipster, fusion, taco/sushi, food truck inspired BBQ joint with avocado toast. Before you can order, your server tells you all about HIS food intolerances. Your son and daughter’s milkshake arrives topped with a king-sized Snickers, three pink cupcakes, an entire key lime pie, a Mason jar of chia pudding and a chalkboard with an inspirational message: “Just Breathe.” Everyone takes a selfie with it.


22.  Try an unscheduled day. Encourage boredom. Go insane in an hour. Boredom is definitely 100% not encouraging and there’s nothing new to post on your socials. Meanwhile your childhood best friend just went live with a video of her children sketching the masterpieces at the Louvre while her husband surprises her with a bouquet of peonies from a Parisian street florist. She is really skinny. How is she eating that croissant? Oh, she just said it’s gluten-free. In French.


23.   Begin researching sleepaway camps. They cost three times your yearly salary, but that Charlie Brown movie where they go to camp and go river-rafting and there is somehow not a single responsible adult is in charge is streaming free on Netflix. Make the kids watch it. Then they can watch a marathon of “Bunked.” Next best thing to six weeks in the Maine woods, right?


24.  Tie dye some tee shirts. No one has any desire to actually wear a tie dyed tee shirt out in public.


25.  In a fit of nostalgia, remember those lightweight, metal lawn chairs with the woven plastic upholstery. They’d burn your butt and make weird designs all over your thighs, but those things were the best. They were dirt cheap at the old Dollar General on Main Street. Find retro lawn chairs online. They are now $70.00 apiece.


26.  Play miniature golf! Remember the feel of AstroTurf under your Keds? The salt air, the smell of the boardwalk? Getting the ball in the hippo’s mouth for a free game? Yeah, that’s all gone now.  Put-put’s now at a giant indoor metroplex, blaring top 40, under a black light with glow-in-the-dark monsters and lasers that give you a migraine.


27.  Your son has just informed you that technically catching fireflies is cruelty to animals and is condemned by PETA.


28.  Summer reading is important! Okay so maybe you don’t want anything to do with that massive dossier your teacher sent home on the last day, but how about Lois Lowry, Judy Blume, Paul Zindel, Anne McCaffrey, Madeleine L’Engle, Lois Duncan, Katherine Paterson, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor?  No? Not even an Audiobook? The world building and storytelling elements of Red Dead Redemption are more compelling? You’re not going to get into a good college without higher reading scores in fourth grade. Excuse me, no I cannot just bribe someone to let you into Stanford on a Synchronized Swimming scholarship.


29.  Realize your summer looks much better in your Insta-Stories than in real life.


30.  How many days ‘til school starts again?