Unplugged: Summer fun the old fashioned way


Author: Richard Singleton

June arrives each year donning the fashion of fresh opportunities and hopeful transitions. School is ending; summer is beginning. Vacation plans are blooming while yards are striving for survival. Minds are turning from board meetings and book reports to road trips, sandy beaches, cabanas, and dreamy, hammock-inspired moments of transcendence. Here in Texas, the only thing dropping faster than tops on convertibles are thermostats on air conditioners. Summer is here with all its glory and gusto.

With the arrival of summer, however, comes the ever-fresh danger of kids turning-on, tuning-in, and dropping-out via a massive electronic wave of oblivion that threatens to erase hours of summer fun with only the rubble of high-score boasts and astronomical cell phone bills to show for it.

If you’ve read this column much, you know that I’m not anti-gaming, Internet, or smartphone. Actually I’m fond of all of them – in the right proportions. There’s a real danger, however, if these fun gadgets and experiences become the tail wagging the summer dog. Consequently, I’m encouraging parents to explore this simple alternative: unplug, reconnect, and reclaim the summer.

Unplug. First in the formula for summer success is the need to unplug from technology in healthy doses. It’s unrealistic that our kids would spend the summer completely detached from the games, laptops, and phones that seem to fuel their existence. It is realistic, however, to set some healthy boundaries for not allowing poor planning to be a welcome mat for inveterate electronics consumption. Create an expectation before summer is in full swing. Agree upon times when the electronic cloud is lifted and the sun of real life is allowed to shine through. Easier said than done, but try. Even modest success will have rewarding outcomes.

Reconnect. Limiting technology is a fruitless endeavor if it isn’t replaced with some worthwhile, healthy alternative. One of the most important summer investments is for there to be a reconnection of the family in shared experiences. Shake things up; don’t just demand that kids go dark. Provide them with fun alternatives. Position them to be successful, connecting them with you and with others in meaningful relational activities. Camps are a wonderful resource. Weekend family time is vital. Don’t put-off that family reunion this year. Time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other extended family is irreplaceable. More specific suggestions to come.

Reclaim. With the kids spending a healthier amount of time consuming less electronic information and engaging in more relational activity, the family can truly reclaim the summer. It doesn’t have to be a nostalgic dreamland that doesn’t exist in reality. But, it also doesn’t have to be an antagonistic wasteland that is far more real than we are comfortable admitting. Reclaim the summer in small doses. Pace yourself. Edicts, rules, and ironclad assertions demanding fun usually end in the opposite.

Try these starter ideas to build a repertoire for reconnecting and reclaiming the summer:

• Go on an old fashioned picnic

• Explore riding lessons at a local stable or equestrian center

• Gather a group of friends and share the cost of a party barge at the lake

• Ride the Metro and explore downtown, or for a more rustic journey ride the Austin Steam Train

• Gather your family and stake out your spot on the hillside at the Zilker Summer Musical

• Build a fort (inside or out) • Plan a campout (yes, the backyard counts)

• Explore another culture through local cuisine, music, events, and museums

• Take in the Austin Main Street Artisan Stroll

• Go on a food expedition, visiting some of the many exciting and yummy food trailers sprinkled throughout Austin

• Don’t forget to end summer with a some fire and ice by taking in the Ice Cream and Hot Sauce festivals in August.

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