How lucky are these kids?
My daughter starts 2nd grade tomorrow, August 3rd. Where did summer go?
I want to say that summer was too short. I want to complain that our lives will once again be subjected to the school calendar and the threat of too many absences. (We got a letter last year.)
School should start at the end of August like when I was in school. My kids should have the idyllic summer breaks that I had. I want to say each of these things, but every time I start to or hear someone else say them, I think about the this article in my local paper when school let out in the spring:
Where children can eat free this summer
This school year, thousands of students in Delaware County relied on their schools for a free or reduced-price lunch. At Muncie Community Schools alone, 4,017 were eating for free, according to Indiana Department of Education data.
That leaves a big problem when school isn’t in session, especially for students who aren’t in summer camps or day care programs. According to the 2016 Kids Count Data Book, 26.1 percent of the children in Delaware County are living in poverty — a higher percentage than the state and U.S.
I feel like complaining about the short summer is a #MiddleClassProblem, which doesn’t acknowledge my privilege. I have fulfilling work that provides my family with a comfortable lifestyle. I don’t have a boss. I rarely have to be at work on a certain day. Annie, my wife, doesn’t work outside the home. We don’t have to worry about our kids not having enough to eat, nor do we have to cover the increased cost of daycare. Our kids are surrounded by books and rich experiences.
Harper, our daughter, spent a week at science camp, took weekly horse lessons, spent loads of time with friends, and perfected her dive in my parents’ pool. Not a bad summer. My son Griffin, however, was in summer preschool and ABA therapy all summer. Early intervention for autism doesn’t allow a summer break. Affording these schools for Griffin is it’s own sort of privilege, but he did not have the luxury of having a summer break. Neither do many kids who live in poverty.
Last year Slate shared a story written by Elissa Strauss titled “The Lost Summer: The high cost of summer vacation for struggling families.” Here are a few excerpts from the story:
Raina’s child care jumped from $100 to $160 a week after school ended, and she would no longer have access to the two free meals a day given to low-income children in public schools. During the summer the city continues to offer these meals, but they require caretakers to go and pick them up on a daily basis. This wasn’t an option for Olympia or her babysitter…
In a city [NYC] where 1 in 3 children live in poverty (the rate is 1 in 5 nationwide), going to camp is, for many children, just another luxury their parents can’t afford…
According to the American Camp Association, 70 percent of campers in their network come from middle- and upper-income households…
I would love for Griffin to have a summer, and I would love for Harper to have a longer summer. I want to be an advocate for longer summer breaks, but the reality is that there are mothers and fathers–who love their kids, too–who struggle to make ends meet each summer.
For many, the longer the summer, the longer the struggle.