Goofy kid stuff 

1. The point of summers for children – and with children – is to share stories and to work up some new ones. Summer is when you, the parent, can say: "This isn’t so bad. This isn’t nearly as bad as the time that your Uncle Chris and I had to stay with Aunt Nez in Kingston and she tried to feed us breadfruit and I couldn’t sleep at night because Uncle Chris kept crying and talking about all the times he left hamburgers on his plate back in Detroit. This isn’t so bad. You should have gone through that summer!"

2. When things go wrong during the summer, remember that you’re sending another generation forward with their own breadfruit stories.

3. While this discussion may appear relevant only to those with children of their own, the childless rarely realize how very willing the blessed breeders are to participate in lend-lease programs with qualified adults. It is a littleknown fact that zoos, museums and other cultural institutions have children on call for folks who feel they need cover to enjoy the sea lion feeding. At the zoo, for instance, ask at the minitrain station for rent-a-kid day rates.

4. If no one asks, propose that relatives and others would love to spend time with your children. Few parents seem to realize that FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service will ship them at remarkably reasonable rates. Remember that one of the points of summer for parents is to have at least a brief vacation from your kids.

5. If your friends and family fail, you can find professionals at a variety of camps to share the brilliant company of your charges. Camps now come in ever proliferating varieties. Manners camps, experience-the-city camps, back-to-nature camps, computer camps, sports camps, religious camps, scout camps, language camps, music camps, peace camps. A new addition is a day camp for aspiring rockers, 10-16, that promises to send campers home with a CD including their original music (DAYJAMS, 1-800-295-5956). Added bonus with camps: If the kids hit it off, they can return as counselors.

6. Read to or with kids. The long days of summer somehow suggest stretching out into longer works. Jim Trelease’s The Read -Aloud Handbook is one guide. Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories was a special hit at the Heron household not that many summers ago. My son, Niles, 13 this year, suggests we read it again this summer. (Figuring age appropriateness is always important. There are few things worse than arriving on page 152, and saying, "There’s no way I’m reading this to a kid.")

7. Television aims to fill all vacuums. Someone once said the problem with TV is that it gives you something to do before you can give any thought to what you want to do.

8. The entertainment-recreational complex does well enough saturating the media with highpriced toys; one of the complex’s credos is to turn the simple and cheap into the complex and expensive. Witness the evolution of the lowly squirt gun into the ever more super Super Soakers; some summer soon there’ll be the monstrosity of a Bull Connor Firehose Special. But the cheap, simple, resilient toys are still on the market. For a couple of bucks there are sling-shot helicopters, bubble stuff by the quart, not to mention kites, the lowly magnifying glass and grab bags of magnets.

9. Work on Halloween costumes early. Sure, it’s hot, but it builds character to walk around the neighborhood as a wolfman in July. (See No. 1.)

10. Pass along your hobbies or take up new ones together. No home should be without an auto mechanic, not to mention a ventriloquist, a magician or a skilled maker of balloon animals.

11. Don’t forget museums, zoos, sunsets, picket lines, protest marches, gardening, family reunions (anyone’s), construction sites, parades, outdoor music festivals, nature walks, the beach, pool halls, swimming pools, playscapes, laser shows, starting a family band, building a fleet of paper airplanes, collecting bugs.

12. On long trips, accept the phrase "Are we there yet?" as a mantra. Don’t leave all the fun to the kids. Everyone can join in. Chanting this together can make a 12-hour car trip with children seem like less than 48 hours on the road.

13. Equal proportions peanut butter and dry milk with a bit of honey make a serviceable and edible modeling clay. And no matter how bad the chalk art on your sidewalk, the rain will wash it away.

14. Kodak will remind you to take pictures. There’s no profit in reminding you to take notes. But with paper and pencil you can preserve forever lines such as "Niles you’re the bestest brother I ever had, and my only brother."

15. Gotta go, the kids are calling. Oh, yeah. Back to reality: Make sure you ask what they want to do.


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