Does anybody from this generation remember adults sitting down and playing with them? Is that a thing that ever happened? I mean, for sure our parents loved us, but did they ever actually hang out with us, on purpose, to participate in an activity of our choosing? Wait a second, wait a second: Just for fun, let me just try to picture the expression on my dad’s face had I interrupted, let’s say, Hockey Night in Canada to request/demand that he cut out a hundred paper dolls with me instead. I’m seeing confusion, followed by light chuckling and a gentle nudge out of his TV sightline.
Or what if I had commanded my grandmother to drop the cake-batter bowl mid-mix and walk away from the kitchen for an impromptu bike ride? Grounds for a temperature check and bed rest: for only a child in a fever dream would suggest such a thing.
And yet here we are, halfway through a lazy summer, dropping the ball every day to do all of these things and more with our kids. I know I’m supposed to be cynical, and we’re all supposed to lament the fact that we’re helicopter parents and whatever else we’re probably doing all wrong, but I’ve got to say, doing it all wrong is feeling pretty right to me these days.
This year, we’re enjoying our kids in a big way. Don’t get me wrong, we always enjoy them; it’s just that this year in particular, my husband and I wiped the slate clean with the specific intention of having a delightful and almost entirely unfettered summer.
If I’m being honest, this is something we attempt to do every summer with varying degrees of success. Usually what happens is that things begin promisingly, with us solemnly pledging to each other that the schedule won’t get out of hand the way it did last year, and the year before, and the year before that. And then we check our emails and the whole thing is blown. Our shoulders creep up to our ears by mid-month, and we don’t unwind until we flip the whole table over and agree to start fresh. But this year we finally did it. We rented a cottage without a phone (without a phone!), but wait for it, it gets better — there’s also no cell service. And we did it on purpose.
We eliminated all the things we thought might get in our way: weekend obligations, enrichment for the children, personal relationships — everything except our most pressing work obligations. To be clear, no one’s suggesting that we’re going to quit our jobs and spend the rest of our days sitting on a dock catching sunfish for a living, but let’s just say that if you’re planning to invite us to your dinner party, just make sure it falls somewhere between Labour Day and Victoria Day; otherwise I regret to inform you that we are occupied. You see, we just discovered a bird’s nest tucked into our rain gutter, and we’re going to need a few months to study how the whole thing pans out.
No summer camp, no aggravating dinnertime phone calls, nothing but sunsets and paper dolls; we’ve got the kids home all day every day, and we’re loving it. Because this year, doing it all wrong tastes like an ice cream sundae for dinner, for the third day in a row.
Samantha Bee is a Daily Show correspondent, an author and a Canadian too.