Kids, You’re About to Experience a 1980s Summer

1980s summer

At the beginning of all of this, I was anxiety-ridden about what a global pandemic was going to do to my school-aged children. A lot of what they knew was ripped out from underneath them like a rug, and I found myself so worried about their well-being that I was laser-focused on ensuring they were okay.

I tried to homeschool, I made sure we all went on group walks or bike rides around the neighbourhood. When conservation areas opened up, I arranged day trips, all in the name of their happiness. I bought them little toys and activities I might not have purchased normally because I wanted to bring them some kind of joy in all the bad news.

Now, I am tired.

It has been so many weeks, I’ve lost count. I’m still working a full-time job. When school is done, there will be no summer camps, no activities, no big group playdates. In my sad little backyard (although, thank goodness we have a backyard), there is no pool or trampoline.

Now, my children, it is up to you. I am throwing in the towel.

You’re bored? I understand and I feel for you, but you have to do something about it. I have provided you with books and toys and a nice home. I will make sure you’re fed and covered in sunscreen. I’ll even do your laundry. The rest is up to you.

I’m allowing you to hop on your bikes and ride around the neighbourhood with a friend (at a safe distance, of course) and I won’t be checking up on you to make sure you’re okay. Please come home when the streetlights come on.

I won’t be rushing you off to sports camp and soccer and swimming lessons. We won’t be getting on an airplane and going somewhere amazing. Dad and I will be doing the cleaning and the cooking, the grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, the laundry and everything else we need to get done in a day.

My kids, I’m offering you the gift of no plans. Use it wisely. Get lost in a book. Make up a game. Use your imagination. Explore the little court we live on. Gather bugs. Do none of that and instead whine about how bored you are. (But I won’t be listening to that complaint any longer.)

This has been hard, there’s no doubt about it. And you’ve been doing an amazing job during an unprecedented time. I’m proud of your resilience, and I know now that you’re going to be okay. You are living in a time of Netflix and Roblox and Skip the Dishes. We have options.

Now, while I do my work, while I make the bed or maybe even just take a long uninterrupted shower, I am releasing you to the beautiful outside world we live in. Call on a friend (but again, keep your distance and don’t gather in big groups) and see where the day takes you. Be safe, be careful, don’t talk to strangers, but be wild and carefree. Come home with grass stains on your knees and your necks creased with dirt.

This might be your only summer of unscheduled days. When you can drop your bike on the front lawn and run inside to find me already cutting up watermelon or handing you a popsicle to take outside. When you can get to know the neighbour kid. When you can ask a friend to play without me texting their parents first and finding a couple of hours several days from now when it fits into everyone’s schedule.

I love you very much, but I can no longer sustain entertaining you, and I’m not going to allow you to miss this incredibly short season of sunny days and warm nights and cicadas buzzing.

I’ll be here at the end of the day to feed you, to help you get showered, to tuck you into bed, to read with you. I’ll even lie in your bed with you until you fall asleep (I really love that part of the day.) But the rest is up to you.

When you’re grown, you might look back on this summer as one of your best. This year has been hard and confusing and scary, but for now, the summer is ahead of you and you’re incredibly lucky.

Now get outside and close that screen door behind you.




  1. Patricia Walker on June 10, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Don’t know what to say about this. This ain’t the 80ties.

  2. Anne Rebelo on June 10, 2020 at 11:32 pm

    I agree, and I am even thinking the tablets have to go away, as they seem to cause us big problems. TV it is, kids! lol

  3. Dawn on June 11, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Sounds great. Doesn’t have to be the only summer like this! 😀

  4. gayle b on June 12, 2020 at 8:01 am

    This sounds more like the 60’s or 70’s, lucky kids!! .

  5. Cecilia on June 12, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    It was the eighties for me. There are 6 of us and we were pretty poor. Play in the rain anyone? How about a mud pie decorated with dandelion heads?

  6. L roffey on June 12, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    Good for you Heather. I’m a great grandmother now and I remember playing outside till the street lights went on
    We can played tag played skipping rolled in the grass ran in the house for a snack and right back outside again
    We did not sit watching tv. (Yes we had tv)
    We did not fly to resorts we did day trips if dad wasn’t working. Mom cooked every day there was no going to pick up fast food. The kids today have too much STUFF.
    I know a reader will say this is 2020 but kids are kids if they are bored they are not happy kids

  7. Janaya Stephens on June 12, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    Your article about the kids having a 1980s summer is probably the single most helpful perspective I have read to help me, as a mother of a seven-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, deal with the prospect of what the summer might be for them. I was born mid 70s and grew up in the 80s and those were some of the best summers of my life and they were unstructured, footloose and glorious. Thank you for reminding me of that!!!
    In today’s world when everything is so structured and everyone is rushing from here to there it was a much-needed reminder that there is a rare opportunity to find something beautiful in this and the experience might just be…as you say, the one they remember the most.
    So thank you for this, truly and I hope this goes viral. Many parents will appreciate it.
    I have shared it to my Facebook page.

  8. Heather Dixon on June 12, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    Hi Janaya! I have three girls: age 10, 8 and just turned 6 and I was born late 70s and grew up in the 80s! Sounds like we have a lot in common. 🙂 I remember my summers being incredible, too. And we didn’t have a lot! We certainly didn’t have a pool and didn’t go on super fancy vacations. And I don’t remember a ton of camps or activities. I truly do hope this is a relaxed, carefree summer for all the kids out there. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment. It made my day and I love knowing that somthing I’ve written touched someone else in a small way. Have an awesome summer!

  9. Heather Dixon on June 12, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    Hi L – Thank you for your comment! I agree, kids do have a lot of stuff. The funny thing is, all mine seem to want right now is a bike or a pair of rollerblades and the great outdoors. And a lot of their friends are the same. I think kids today are definitely being given a gift with this summer. I predict a lot of rolling down grassy hills and skipping and games of tag. Sounds like you have a lot of lovely memories!

  10. stef on June 12, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    This made me tear up. I was so fortunate that I was able to be home during the summer when my boys were growing up. I tried to give them this kind of summer. The one I had growing up in the 80’s. Running through the woods with my cousins, eating wild strawberries, making up games and getting stuck in knee-deep mud. Swimming seven times a day. Playing the Murderer game in the dark while our parents ignored us and enjoyed their adult time. I hope all of you with little kids now are able to share that wonder of childhood with them too.

  11. Sandra on June 12, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    This. Yessss!!! I was born in 1977 and grew up on a dairy/horse/everything farm. I picked rocks, did hay, rode my bike-on the road-when I was 5, splashed in puddles, had a Fort, swam in the duck mite infested pond which I now find out was actually a sess pool-look that up!
    We only watched cartoons on Saturday mornings, we only had 3 channels, my mom made fresh bread or buns every day. Looked after mom stuff. There were never any vacations, and certainly not ever once an airplane vacation. I so want this for my 16 year old and my 18 month old my ovaries are screaming midlife crisis. But I just don’t know how! Even though I actually know how! Working 9 hour days, why do I feel guilty if I want this for my children?

  12. Surprisedmom on June 15, 2020 at 7:52 am

    Wake up. We are not in the 80s. Do your job and watch your children. The backyard misery is on you. Get a small pool and a little trampoline. This article screams help!

  13. Shira on June 16, 2020 at 1:36 am

    If this will be their best summer, there is no reason not to do it again next year!!!

  14. Pari cheung on June 25, 2020 at 9:57 am

    Read your story and like it now that the kids are given permission to behave as a responsible child , they will do their best. I am a grandma but now I am worried for my grand children . I see my son is doing his best to teach and protect them just like you do. Thank you for showing your love to your beloved children. And telling us how you do it.

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