Today’s Episode of Not Getting It

I guess I shouldn’t expect anything much from Parade Magazine. Yet I keep coming back, because I like reading about celebrities I’ve never heard of, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few feisty articles, debunking conventional wisdom and afflicting the comfortable (really). But this one is just a load of tone-deaf idiocy:

Mitch Albom: The Joys of Summer

I feel sorry for today’s kids. Summer comes, they’re finally free from school—and bang! Band camp. Science seminars. Internships.

Instead of downtime, it’s get-up-and-go time. Chorus travel, archaeological digs, dance tours. My nephew from Michigan flew to Georgetown University for a summer medical program, replete with cadavers. He was 16.

(Am I the only one thinking that the doctor camp sounds awesome?)

When I think of my childhood summers, I remember lying in the grass, hands behind my head, feeling the blades dig into my fingers. I studied the clouds. I joked with my friends. None of us wore watches.

And none of you had a mother who worked outside the home.



And I am shocked, shocked to learn from Wikipedia that Mitch the Parenting Expert does not have children of his own.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “If we don’t enroll our kids in an activity, all they’ll do is text. Or watch TV (and text) or talk on the phone (and text).”

No you don’t. I’m thinking, if we don’t enroll our kids in an activity, I’ll be put in jail for leaving an 8 year old at home by herself to study clouds while I go DO MY FREAKIN’ JOB.


Mitch, Mitch, Mitch.

These are serious times we live in. And you have completely missed the point.

I wonder if the people who’ve been out of work for 18 months or more are thinking, “Well, we’re one illness away from losing our home, but it’s worth it because my kid can lie on the grass without wearing a watch while her friends are at archaeology camp.”

What an opportunity you had, Mitch, to talk about the economic realities of two-career families, or maybe even single-parent families, remember those? Or to wonder whether three months of summer vacation even makes sense anymore when parents work and other countries are cleaning our clock in math and science. Perhaps an oblique mention of the fact that the gap between rich and poor keeps widening to dangerous levels, especially in communities of color, even as those of us lucky enough to have jobs continue working our tails off.

Aw, who am I kidding?! Who wants to read depressing, eggheaded stuff like that? Much better to offer up a big stinking pile of parental guilt-mongering and get-off-my-lawn buffoonery.

That sells.

Actually it doesn’t sell. But it does come free in the Sunday newspaper.


18 thoughts on “Today’s Episode of Not Getting It

  1. Roy Howard says:

    I see you have some feelings about this. 😉

    (And … I appreciate the bell ringing you offer.)

    • MaryAnn says:

      Hey, I’m totally sympathetic to the problem of overprogramming, in summer and throughout the year. Heck, I’m writing a book about Sabbath, for Pete’s sake!!!! I also feel so fortunate not to be working full-time right now, and we have good in-home child care, which means our kids don’t have to attend wall-to-wall camps during the summer.

      But seriously. Any article that doesn’t acknowledge the economic realities at play isn’t worth lining the birdcage with.

  2. Keith Snyder says:

    I could probably have been more polite in my comment.

  3. Mamala says:

    Yes, life was simpler then. 2 incomes don’t hardly cut it these days, if both can even get a job. Sheesh.

  4. had some similar responses to the article and remember struggling – as a single parent working FT – with how to provide some down-ish time for the summer – family vacations and some alternative weeks arranged with friends who stayed at home (with stay at home parents) was part of the mix – as were scout and church camps and VBS as well as the summer day care/camp that was the “usual” for whatever stage of life.

    BUT – when I had two summers off due to unplanned job changes – wow – that was time for creative down time. AND – coming to seminary – gave us threesummers with alternative schedules. And I really count those as blessings – esp. when we all worked together at my supervised ministry site (camp director, waterfront director/lifeguard/counselor and CIT).

    And yes, when I grew up – and my mom was at home – I did a lot of the things Mitch so fondly remembers….

  5. Shala says:

    I’ve been mulling over this too, as my four-year-old daughter’s experience of summer has been very different from what I remember as the child of a school teacher who had summers off. I only went to Girl Scout camp for a week in the summer. I can count my day camp experiences on one hand.

    This morning marks the start of my daughter’s sixth week of day camp.

    Sometimes I think that she’s better off having structured time for playing, experimenting, crafting, and especially swimming (we don’t and probably won’t have a swimming pool up here, so if she’s going to swim her summers away like I did, someone else will have to host it). And sometimes I just feel so selfish for sending her away so that I can have writing time — paid or not.

  6. Rachel Heslin says:

    I have problems with any sort of overgeneralization. All Parents are Helicopters. All Kids Are Addicted to Video Games. You, Personally, Are Doing Everything Wrong.

    Give me a break. 😛

  7. Meg says:

    I have been mulling over the article and your response since I read it earlier in the day. Obviously he hit a lot of your buttons… I don’t know if it is an age thing…kids at a different stage… or different life paths. Mr. Albom did not hit those buttons for me. What resinated for me was the thought that for many of us being over scheduled is an issue… we do need to give our children time to relax and rejuvenate so that they can head into the new school year refreshed and ready to learn. It was a call to have more Sabbath time!
    This past Saturday was the first one this year where as a family we did not have anything scheduled…no dance class, no swim meet, no soccer game, no work…you name it. We could have all stayed home in our jammies. I loved it and need to work to get more of these types of days on our calendar. (I did look back at my calendar…the only days without scheduled items… Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years… and day before Easter, but I know there were other things to be taken care of on these days!)
    Yes, maybe he could/should have mentioned some of the things that pull against the “freedom” of summer such as parents needing child care, the safety issues of letting our children run that free, the changes in society…but I feel that would have watered down the call for Sabbath time which IMHO was the point of the article.

    I did grow up in a time where we could run fairly free. My brother and I were also “unusual” in the sense that we came from a single parent house hold and our Mom had to work. It meant that when we were younger we were in day care…did go to “day camp” and as we got older were left in the care of a High School student who supervised us… walked with us to the local HS pool, played in the sprinklers etc. My Mom’s days off where our “play days” once chores were taken care of. Summer was relaxing. When I was in HS I was the one providing that “routine” to younger kids…it was how I was able to pay for church youth group outings. I am thankful that I have been able to “stay home” with our kids…it has been one of choice… and prayer (may the car with 100K+ miles last a few more years. LOL) Today I see many kids who are run from one activity to another often in an attempt to get “ahead”, be the best, etc. Competition in this area can be fierce. It is hard to “opt out” and that I think is what Mitch Albom was advocating.

  8. juniper says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t think that hanging out all summer with a bunch of bored kids, the biggest and meanest of whom will lead us all into some unpleasant contest or act of destruction, doesn’t sound all that fun?

    Maybe other people had more enlightened playmates, but laying around looking at clouds and telling jokes? Not likely. More like whacking each other with sticks and banging our bikes into stuff.

    My advice to Mitch is to read Lord of Flies again. Children aren’t necessarily any sweeter or dreamier than any other humans.

    (Who’s cranky? Me, that’s who.)

    • MaryAnn says:

      I think I love you 🙂

      • juniper says:

        So glad. I’ve been kind of regretting the cynicism of this all day. But honestly, people that “I feel sorry for kids today” crap gets my dander right UP.

    • Rachel Heslin says:

      Reminds me a bit of my favorite Madeleine Albright quote (although I may be paraphrasing a bit): “Anyone who believes that the world would automatically be a nicer place if women were in charge obviously doesn’t remember high school.”

  9. juniper says:

    shucks, so cranky I got a double negative in there. you know what I mean, though, right?

  10. Love this.

    I spent my summers in day camp because my mom was working, and my dad couldn’t drive, and my mom wanted us to do fun things instead of watch TV. You know what? It WAS fun. We wrote plays and did art and played outside and went swimming – all those things Mitch thinks kids should be doing? I got to do them BECAUSE I was programmed.

  11. […] as Mitch Albom’s call for someone to please think of the children! Which I railed on here and […]

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