Remember when summer really was all about those “lazy, hazy days?” Squeaky screen doors in wooden frames, big glasses of Kool-Aid and those crazy, uncomfortable, metal chairs that would burn your bare legs when you tried to sit on them in the summer sun?
When I was a kid, the summer just seemed to trail off into infinity. Every day held the potential for new adventures – catching tadpoles in the brook we visited daily, riding bikes, making forts, playing “Batman” with my brother and our best friend, Nancy, who lived down the road (no such thing as playdates back then), and leaving notes for each other in the “monkey” tree. The nights held equal allure– catching lightening bugs and putting them in glass jars with puncture holes in the lid, camping out in our backyard and scaring ourselves to death or going off to a drive-in movie. It really was a special time.
On the rare occasion that I would wander inside and proclaim to my mother that I was bored, she would immediately suggest a chore to make me realize the folly of my statement and off I would go to seek out some interesting activity that did not involve folding laundry or drying dishes.
The fun went on for a while until telltale signs began to appear reminding us that our idyllic lifestyle was a temporary one. Somewhere around mid-August back-to-school supplies began to infiltrate the stores. Loose leaf paper, binders, pencils and notebooks were displayed on the shelves which, just days earlier, still had flip-flops, pool toys and beach towels for sale.
However, once the initial panic and dread wore off, I have to admit that I didn’t hate school. I actually loved picking out all my new school supplies. I was always intrigued by the two-tiered cardboard pencil boxes that had so many little compartments and drawers and imagined how my new pencils, erasers and ruler would look in there.
There was also the all-important selection of the lunch box. My two all-time favorites were a square, black and pink vinyl Barbie lunch box and a yellow, metal school bus-shaped one that had all the Disney characters looking out the windows!
The emotional and dramatic changes from summertime fun to homework nightmare is pretty much a universal experience that begins when we are 5 and continues into our early 20’s (if college was a choice) and then again when we have children of our own. Even though many of us are no longer in school, the academic calendar still influences us, emotionally and otherwise. When we see those school supplies making their first appearance (alas, nowadays right after July 4th ) we get that old tightening in the stomach and when we hear the school bus rolling down our street in September, engine clattering and brakes squeaking, we think, “glad it’s not me!”
We find ourselves on that same “back to school” schedule too, personally and in business. Tasks that we put off in the summer we are now ready to undertake. It’s all about getting back on track. For some, it could be as simple as acknowledging and enjoying the change in seasons, while for others it might be job-related responsibilities that occur each Fall. For some households, it is organizing after-school sports and activities schedules’ for their family while for some parents it’s readjusting after sending a child off to college for the first time. And for some families it’s a combination of juggling jobs, children, and elder parents.
For the families who have these intergenerational responsibilities there is, of course, additional stresses. However, in today’s busy world, there are now many community programs in place to assist seniors and their families with day to day living. There are Home Care programs which can provide some medical and/or personal assistance to seniors in their homes so they can maintain their independence for as long as possible. Also, Adult Day programs have been created for seniors who could benefit from supervision, medical oversight and/or social interaction each day, rather than sitting alone at home each day. In addition, there are apartment residences for independent living seniors as well, where seniors can have peace of mind living in a community setting while maintaining their independence.
Much has changed since over the years. The memories we have from childhood still play a role in our lives today. We want to be there for our parents and other loved ones who helped us have those great summers and let us be children for as long as possible. Now we can help them be independent for as long as possible and help our children shape their memories and lives at the same time.