The summer is coming to an end. I felt the breeze it left in its wake as it flew out the door. This summer was like no other in this fair province. The blazing sun, the above-average warm temperatures and humidity. We had dry spells for weeks, and wind was surprisingly low. It was the summers of my youth in Southwestern Ontario spent outside in the heat and trudging over the dykes to the Jaycee pool. I practically died from heat exhaustion on those treks. But we were young and more resilient. An afternoon splashing in the cool waters of the pool made us forget about the long walk to get there, or the walk back home.
The blazing sun back then seemed brighter. Hotter, somehow. The summers were longer, I swear. Days and days spent out in someone’s yard listening to the radio or throwing crab apples around. Climbing trees, double-dutch tournaments and road hockey I wasn’t allowed to play. Riding our bikes to the corner store to get a 25-cent coke. Days at the cottage in Rondeau, running from flies and swimming in Lake Erie.
Ahh. Do kids nowadays understand what summers before Instagram and TikTok were like? I’m not sure. I hope so.
We had freedom and responsibility at the same time. We had the freedom to go to the park, to trek to the pool, to play in backyards and playgrounds, with the expectation to be home before dark. The responsibility came with looking after yourself. You were responsible to make sure you went home for lunch, or you had a key for the house to get in. If you went to the pool, you had everything you needed with you because mom and dad weren’t going to drive over there to drop it off to you. We were made to be independent at a young age. Look after your own shit because no one else is doing that for you, kid. Do kids do that now? Do they look after their own shit? I wonder.
Maybe that’s the struggle new parents have. The ever-present guilt of having to put too much on the shoulders of their children, so instead, they end up doing everything. A bit of struggle is not a bad thing. A bit of responsibility is okay. No one ever said mom must do everything, drive everywhere and be everything to everyone forever. It’s impossible. Putting the onus back on the child to look after themselves is the only way to garner some independence, to ensure an inkling of understanding what it means to take care of yourself. If mom comes to the rescue every time, it negates their responsibility. Their sense of being their own savior. Mommy is on vacation, kid. Save your own damn self.
Remember in the 80’s we had latchkey kids? Kids were given a key to the house to let themselves in while mom and dad were at work. Kids were responsible for getting a snack, doing their homework, and taking care of shit before mom and dad could make it home. It was a big generational trend back then and maybe it left some trauma for those kids. Maybe they grew up and said they weren’t doing that to their kids, so things changed. Maybe?
Somewhere along the line, things shifted, and kids are relieved of responsibility. But, there goes freedom, too. Freedom from social media knowing every step you take, every bit of food you eat and what underwear you’re wearing. Mom and dad have you tracked on your phone and can find out if you went to that field party or if you have a crush on the guy from math class. They see you and so does everyone else. Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok…the peering eyes of society want to know where you live and how you cope with life, because we need to see how others live to dictate how we should live.
I’m glad I had the chance to grow up unhindered by peering eyes. And the chance to take care of my own shit.
Now if summer could just stay around a little longer….