Tales from the Trenches

Summer...Days of Nothingness

by brenda maas

Now that Spring has finally sprung, mailboxes, websites and backpacks (and Simply Family, too) have filled up with summer camp and activity notices. As I read through the brochures, I eagerly mark the activities that I think my boys will like—soccer camp, nature sessions and science discovery classes. Excitement shimmers like the now-lengthening sunlight.

But as I try to layout all these adventurous activities, the calendar fills up quickly. The lazy days of summer will go by with hardly a free moment. Frustration rears beneath the excitement as I search for “white space” on our calendar. Then I recall a journal entry I made last August.

The boys are building a clubhouse. This is project that started several days ago with few large boxes and their dad’s roll of duct tape. It has progressed from an eight-year-old and toddler playing peek-a-boo in a large box to a four-room Boys’ Clubhouse. Each child has his own room with an extra for guests. It’s even portable—it slides into the garage (where their dad’s car is supposed to park) each night in case of a detrimental rain.

Although my frugal and conservationist mind cringes at the thought of how much tape they are using, the let’s-keep-it-simple mom in me revels in the fact that these boys, along with whichever neighborhood kid who happens along, are using their creativity and teambuilding skills to come up with a finished product that they can all use. (Sound like an employment ad?) They have a common goal in mind. And, although I sometimes hear bickering, everyone from ages 10 through five have figured out a way to delegate and work through their controversies without upper-level management (AKA: Mom) stepping in.

When I spied on them, I had to laugh because of their intensity and seriousness about “The Clubhouse.” I recall the times my sister and I made tents, forts and hideouts where ever we could—under the huge quilt frame that took over our living room; in the dilapidated summer-kitchen hanging against the side of our farmhouse; in the bales of hay that didn’t make the elevator ride up to the mow. One of my secret longings of parenthood is that my kids have the place, the space, the safety, and the opportunity to just run around, hang out, to just BE—like I did as a kid.

Child psychologist warn, again and again, against the dangers of too much TV, violent video games and unsupervised web surfing. As a parent of three young boys, I can see how easily both parents and children can fall under the spell of electronic media. But sunny days in the 70s and cardboard boxes hold their own allure.

So I walk the fine line—wanting them to be safe, to use kind words and not bully or be bullied, and wanting them to discover, in the safety of their own yard, that they are competent boys with masterful minds, that they can accomplish whatever they set out to do if they keep trying.

I’m dying to lift the window flap and crawl into that hideaway but the rules are clearly posted: No Girls and Nobody Over Age 14!

As I re-read that entry, I felt the feminist in me wiggle a bit (instead of rising up and shouting). But it’s so typical of elementary-aged boys, that the mother in me exhaled a sigh of relief that these kids are normal! They made something out of nothing and had a great time doing it. As for the “Nobody Over Age 14” part, well, that means that I don’t have to clean The Clubhouse. In fact, I think I might just lie around and do nothing.


no messy things

don’t be a party pooper

club members only

have permission to come in

nobody over 14 allowd

(some excepstions)

no girls!

no rough housing or being crazy

no wreking the club

follow the rules or you get the boot!

Brenda Maas, mother of three elementary-aged boys, thinks the ™do nothing days∫ of summer are the best. She perfected this art of ™putzing around∫ from a master–her father–and is quite happy that it shows signs of continuing with her sons.

The ™rules∫ written by Conner, Cameron and Callum Maas and friends.