Here & there: How a Jedi mind trick makes for the best summer vacation

Image by St. George News

FEATURE — The countdown is on. Summer is coming. And my Jedi mind trick is secretly waiting to set the stage for our next three months.

My kids have been asking for a solid six weeks when the last day of school is.

They’re pretty much over it by now: the early wake-ups, lunch-making, carpooling, after-school activities, homework, dinner, school-night bedtime (especially when it’s still light outside).

The structure starts to feel like a straitjacket come May; for them and for me.

But you know it’s about to get real when the elementary school starts posting the countdown to end of school on the cafeteria wall, which they did last week.

Since those numbers went up, my kindergartner has run in the house breathless from school each day like a newsie with a war announcement: “Ten more days left – only 10 more days left!”

Then he wants to see what that 10 days looks like on the calendar. It’s not enough to conceptualize the time left, he wants to see it in actual terms, in boxes on the calendar. And he’s always disappointed they haven’t accounted for the weekend days. I try explaining that those aren’t school days, but it’s like reasoning with the ocean.

Day one of summer in the Dayton household is mandatory pajama and television gorge. Salt Lake City, Utah, June 13, 2015 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News
Day one of summer in the Dayton household is mandatory pajama and television gorge. Salt Lake City, Utah, June 13, 2015 | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

When my middle boy started kindergarten, someone asked him how he liked it. He responded, “It’s kind of boring, but I hear the end is great!”

But this end-of-school lust isn’t just a kindergarten issue. It’s an Everyman issue. Young and old, we are all ready for summer when it comes.

We want to be free. We want to be lazy. We want to linger in our pajamas or yoga pants just because we can, and not because we ran out of time between breakfast and the tardy bell.

In my house, the first agenda item for summer is one solid day of nothing but pajamas and television. You heard me right: PJs and TV. All day long. No one is allowed to get in real clothes until 5 p.m. It’s glorious.

This mandatory lazy day of summer is one part direct protest against the rigorous schedule we’ve kept for the last nine months and one part Jedi mind trick.

The Jedi mind trick is the real gem of it all. At the start of the day, my boys are whooping and celebrating their liberation into a pajama-clad world, but by 5 p.m. they are begging for my permission to turn off the TV and play outside.

It’s my inoculation against the summer epidemic every parent knows too well: screen syndrome.

It doesn’t last forever, but the first day of summer gorge does last long enough to establish some good summer habits that don’t revolve around TV.

Four neighborhood boys reviewing treat options at the ice cream van, Salt Lake City, Utah, May 2016. | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News
Four neighborhood boys reviewing treat options at the ice cream van, Salt Lake City, Utah, May 2016. | Photo by Kat Dayton, St. George News

Summer habits I like to establish go something like this:

  • Hike a mountain
  • Swim in some water (more than once)
  • Buy an overpriced treat from the Shady ice cream truck (only once)
  • Go to a drive-in movie
  • Operate a lemonade stand
  • Search out something interesting
  • Read books
  • Laugh
  • Play
  • Get out of town (at least once, and even if it’s to a town not too far away)

Some of the habits are for the body. Some of the habits are for the mind. But all of the habits are for the fun of summer. And they all hopefully add to that spirit of wonder and curiosity and freedom we all crave.

Every year, I count down the days until summer with glee – and then, come August, I count down the days until school begins with equal measure. It’s the yin and yang of life. The looseness of summer and the rigidity of school. One cannot be fully appreciated without the other.

Today, I welcome summer. Come along, my dear friend. We’re ready for you.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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