The season brings back memories of long days playing outside, adventures in our nearby patch of woods and marathon kick-the-can sessions. Like many baby boomers, I grew up in a neighborhood that had lots of kids. We rarely played inside. You always could find several neighbor kids outside to play with.
We would play team games, ride bikes, chalk the sidewalk and have all kinds of invented fun. All ages and genders were included. We taught each other the time-honored traditions, rules and rituals of backyard play – and frequently invented new ones. It was a miniature society all its own, and it was great. Some of my best memories, and friends, were made in the backyards of that suburban neighborhood.
Times are a little different now. Just today on the news, I heard that 40 percent of households have a mother as the sole or primary breadwinner. This is quadruple the number when I was growing up. Fewer stay-at-home moms means fewer stay-at-home kids. There also is a smaller percentage overall of families with kids today than when I was growing up. It seems there also is an increased fear of letting children wander outside unattended. I don’t see groups of playing kids running yard-to-yard like I used to all summer long.
Still, kids can have that same, enriching, community-of-summer-fun experience at summer day camp. They will learn new skills and sports, play games, meet new kids and never get bored. Many of our camp counselors are former campers themselves. They return every summer because they remember all the fun and friendship they had at camp and want to pass it on.
Every year, we as a staff look forward to the return of summer camp to our buildings. The laughing, the shouting, the singing, (and the splashing) help us all remember the joys of a childhood summer.
Julie Mason Vogl is director of marketing services for the Carol Stream Park District