August 15, 2014 11:40:05 AM
Each season has its own special character. Summer always was and I guess to me it always will be June, July and August, the months when school was out. Officially summer begins in late June, usually the 20th or 21st and the first day of autumn is defined by the day that the sun crosses the celestial equator around Sept. 22.
But summer begins when school is out and it ends when school reopens its doors. Then it was a full three months. For school kids today, with their abbreviated summer, I am sure summer will be defined differently
Summer was riding and reading and swimming and exploring. It was neighborhood football games on the vacant lot around the corner. It was Mr. McDowell letting us have hamburgers for breakfast and Mrs. Fleming baking cookies and pies for snacks. Fireflies and mosquitoes and crickets and whippoorwills were the nighttime light and music show. It was the absence of "school nights" and any regimented schedule.
I am amused that I still think of a night through the week as a "school night." School dictates so much of your day, week and year during those formative years. It's difficult to overestimate its role in shaping our personal futures. I am sure that parents must relive that thought pattern as they shepherd their children through the familiar school ritual.
Because I didn't have children, I really hadn't dwelled on those lifelong habits until recently. For some reason this summer seems to have been different. Maybe it is because we have had an unbelievably mild summer. Between the humidity and the temperature we haven't really had a Mississippi summer.
I was out on the back porch one evening recently enjoying the mildness of the temperature and the faux fall and I realized that for all practical purposes summer was indeed over. The kids are back in the public schools and the MSU kids are moving in and starting classes within the week. All the things that define fall are in place but it is just too early. Fall is actually my favorite time of year so it could be year round and I could deal with it, but as you measure your year it just isn't time yet.
Fall is school and football and shopping for school supplies and clothes. It is that nip in the air that always seemed to come the first week in September. It would go away again, but the tease promised the gloriously cool mornings that were to come. Fall is fireplaces and chili and autumn colors. Fall is back to schoolwork and back to a discipline that measures you and sets you on a path.
I believe the discipline of getting up every morning and going to school sets the stage for the discipline necessary to succeed. It is not just the knowledge of the three Rs but the personal self-control that lets you put them into practice. I have heard many an employer say it isn't what you got a college degree in that counts as much as the fact that you stuck it out until the end.
When I was growing up, school was first priority. Until that obligation was satisfied whether it was homework or classroom time, nothing else took precedence. I have had many conversations with friends who are less concerned by the emphasis on day-to-day school for their children and more willing to let it take an occasional back seat to ski trips or extra beach days or some non-school function. The justification always turns to keeping the child well-rounded and that their participation in whatever that activity is has educational merit as well. Not an argument I will ever win, but I have to wonder who wants that ski trip more.
I don't pretend to absolutes on the subject, but I do know that it is hard to find people who are steady and reliable. It makes me wonder if the flexible approach to school attendance and obligations is creating a lackadaisical approach to work in the adults the children become.
There is discipline in physical presence and waking up to show up, but the mental discipline can't be underestimated either. Creativity requires the freedom of summer, but without accompanying personal self-control it becomes difficult if not impossible to reach one's full potential.
Summer is the time when you get to take a break from learning to be an adult. It may feel too early, but it is time to get back to work, summer is over.
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