In the good ol’ summertime

~~ Originally printed in The Chapel Hill (NC) Weekly, April 2012 ~~

As a mother, I choose my battles very, very carefully. I’m a lover, not a fighter, so when I make a stand what I am saying is, “This is the hill I will die on; I hope you brought provisions.” This happens maybe two or three times a year, max.

One such time was when I decided that Bailey was too old to have an idle summer. At 15, she was really too young to have a paying job, especially in the economic turbulence of 2010 where college educated adults were applying for the same jobs she was. And she was not interested in the super cool internship opening I found for her in the Great Dismal Swamp.

I started telling her in April, to give her plenty of time to formulate a plan. My rules were simple: she had to spend at least 20 hours a week in an organized activity. And no, that did not mean that she could organize a group of friends to hang out at the Wexford pool. It had to be something structured and enriching. Oh, and it couldn’t cost me money.

In typical teenager fashion, she thought she could wait me out. She did the nod-and-ignore through mid-May. I increased the frequency of my reminders. She dramatically – repeatedly – told me that I was trying to ruin her summer. The first week of June, I warned her that as soon as school let out, she would be grounded until she had secured a legitimate gig.

What do you know? She worked her connections and got the incredible opportunity to volunteer at Spanish for Fun Academy, a Spanish immersion pre-school in Chapel Hill, where she could use her first-rate language skills and indulge her love of small people. She got some great experience for her résumé, a solid reference, and a truly fabulous college application essay topic.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools require 25 service learning hours for graduation. Even rising 9thgraders can start earning in the summer before high school and check it off the list. The district website and your child’s school will have forms and specifics.

I do know that I was wrong with Bailey. I now believe the age at which one should no longer have idle summers is 14, not 15. That means Blake is up this year. She’s already printed out camp counselor application forms. Go get ‘em, girl!

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