There's 104 days of summer vacation/
And school comes along just to end it/
So the annual problem for our generation/
Is finding a good way to spend it.
-- Phineas and Ferb
I don't know to which school district the Disney Channel cartoon brothers belong, but most public school kids in Connecticut enjoyed considerably fewer days of summer vacation this year.
This year, our dudes had 59.
Thanks to the practice of adding new school holidays without subtracting others (are we really still celebrating Christopher Columbus' birthday?) and annual 11-day power outages, our school year ended just days before Independence Day and started a full week before Labor Day. (Unless you count kids on sports teams that required their presence at preseason practices mid-August.)
All but one of our summer weekends involved a one-night turnover, during which time stinky clothes were quickly laundered and feet were (hopefully) scrubbed before loading the car for the next adventure.
Between three weeks of overnight camp (lucky ducks!), family vacation, five days of visiting friends and a three-day Boy Scout campout, they were left with 14 days. Then subtract graduation parties, doctor's appointments and allergy shots and we're down to nine. Nine days of blissful, carefree nothingness. Did I fall into the over-scheduling trap, or was the summer simply too short? I think it was a little bit of both.
I remember days and days of nothing as a kid in summer. We had no schedule, no plans, no parental supervision. As long as our bike tires were inflated and we had a dollar or two, we could take a trip down the street for Slush Puppies, hang out at the playground and then convince somebody's mother to let us swim in her pool. Although we never quite reached 104 back in the olden days, we did seem to average about 80.
And those 80 days weren't interrupted by cable TV or the Internet or hand-held devices. In our neighborhood, those 80 days also weren't blocked out by summer camps or vacations, since nobody could afford to do much of either one. In some ways, I both envy and pity my kids' summer vacations.
But 59 days really is too few. Can we cut a few school holidays since we've added some over the years? Might we better mark Veteran's Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day in school with meaningful assemblies than by going to the movies or getting our teeth cleaned? How about if no exams are given on religious holidays during which a certain percentage of the school population might be absent?
Some people want everything for their children. But there are those of us who want nothing. Days and days of nothing.
Teresa M. Pelham is co-blogger for the Courant's "Mommy Minute" parenting blog. A freelance writer based in Farmington, Teresa is the author of "Roxy's Forever Home," a children's book benefiting dog rescue. Visit http://www.roxysforeverhome.com for more information.