Laura Parker Roerden writes, consults, and speaks about kids’ connection to themselves, each other, and the earth. She directs Ocean Matters, a nonprofit that helps save threatened marine resources. She believes good food can connect us to the earth and one another and thinks today’s young people are reason to be hopeful about the environmental problems facing us. She lives on Jo-Erl Farm, a fifth generation family farm with her husband, three boys, and an assortment of fruit trees and farm animals. You can find her online at Salt from the Earth and on Twitter @LParkerRoerden.
Our youngest son turned eight this summer and we planned a hoe-down at the farm for him. We had a spoon and egg race, sack races, a hula hoop competition, and doned blindfolds and twirled around to pin the tail on the cow. Kids danced barefoot on the lawn, climbed our apple tree, and sprayed the water hose at one another. But it wasn’t until my friend handed me a bottle of Coppertone sunscreen and its heady classic scent hit me that I realized just how much I had recreated summers from my own childhood with this particular party.
Some of the grownup discussion at the party veered into confessions about how stressful it can be to plan (or not plan) summer for our kids. A dear friend Sara Roy was adamant that this summer she was going the simple route with her kids: the beach, no electronics, time in the yard. Her posts on social media are full of wholesome images of bread baking, boogie boarding, and dirt-smudged smiles. Nearly every post has the sheen of timelessness. Her photos fade to black and white in my mind’s eye.
It’s easy to get busy and caught up in a programmed summer; though—the kind that mirrors the school year where most weeks are planned and most activities have purpose. Fliers and emails come home offering summer camps of every possible stripe: basketball, music, theatre, physics. It can feel like your kid will be left behind if you don’t offer this enrichment or another. And then our kids beg to be plugged into the Xbox or play games on Kindle. Yet they don’t seem happy when they are doing such things either. They say they are bored and fidget. They fight more. Meanwhile, the grownups are pining for something different as well.
Dress Your Summer…
What is it that we all are longing for? Could the answer lies in our summers of yesteryear? The customers of our pastured egg CSA at Jo-Erl Farm leave us notes and cookies and say how they love slipping their cash in a mason jar left off our farmhouse porch for the eggs sold on the honor system. We long for local food, fresh from a garden or farm; for products like this beautiful black and white Adele Karina Dress, made in the U.S. by hands we know.
We long to bring out the mason jars to catch fireflies under the stars or roast marshmallows and sing songs from long ago scout campouts around a primitive fire; to dress in skirts that twirl; and pick up croquet mallets or commandeer the dining room table for several thousand pieces puzzles. We long to slow down time.
At my child’s party, we had recreated the 70s, but nostalgia knows no era. It is simply a pining for something simple: something that resembles our heart’s home.
This summer my plan is the “do nothing” plan, so that when time stretches long and languid we are bored enough to try something from this rich heritage of our hearts: “Do you want to put the tent in the loft of the barn so we can hear the bats fluttering in the rafters? Let’s all make bologna sandwiches and eat them on a rock in the pasture. Or go to the beach with friends when it’s in the 60s and hailing because no one else will be there. Let’s dance at sunset while the sky behind us streams in ribbons of purples and oranges.”
Visit us at Salt from the Earth and share: what is it that is calling to your heart these final, precious weeks of summer?