Mid-Summer Crisis

The months of June, July, and August offer endless possibilities for children: lessons, camps, reading programs, etc. My seven year old is not interested. Summer for him is swimming in the pool, hanging out at home, and playdates with his friends. He wants nothing to do with anything that smacks of organization, instruction, or scheduling. I am baffled by this behavior. I blame it on the fact that he has no social media account, so he cannot understand what he is missing out on via social comparison.

I even restrict his screen use. It’s something that he needs to earn via reading, personal hygiene, and household chores. Many times throughout the day, he and his sister are happy playing with their respective figurines: she with her Polly Pockets (thank you e-bay) and him with WWE wrestlers. They set up bowling games with water bottles. They turn his bunk bed into a restaurant. I should be happy. This is what is encouraged by experts, what many lament today’s children are missing: self-directed, imaginative play. However, I am still caught up by the scheduled activities and excursions that my children don’t know they should want.

Clearly, I have too much time on my hands and too much time to reflect if my greatest parenting crisis is that my children are content to stay home. When the fourth of July hit, and our plans for the fell through, I was crippled with angst, experiencing a full blown mid-summer break crisis. What have we accomplished? What have we done?

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The Sad Reality of Fuddrucker’s

I remember the commercials fondly – the upbeat music, the dazzling array of toppings, and the promise of the world’s greatest burger. Fuddrucker’s. Of course, we never went there. We were marooned in the rural spread known as the Thumb of Michigan. We also rarely ventured into the realm of casual dining, staying firmly in the fast food division.

Years later, I passed the billboard for Fuddrucker’s every time I returned home from college. I am not sure why it continued to captivate me, especially as I was not particularly fond of hamburgers. Of course, I never stopped. I had school loans and a mild eating disorder, so I could not afford the indulgence.

Today, though, a childhood fantasy finally became a reality. We were on our way home from one of my husband’s sporadic BBQ catering jobs when the children decided that they were in danger of starvation. Travelling in a vehicle full of pulled pork, ribs, and brisket does have a way of stimulating one’s appetite. Their raging hunger happened to coincide with the Flint exit for Fuddrucker’s.

Entering the restaurant felt like entering an abandoned amusement park. All the remnants of fun and kitschiness remained, the neon signs, the Pinball machine and air hockey table, the collection of Americana/pop culture memorabilia. However, the people were gone. We were one of a handful of families. It seems Fuddrucker has gone the way of Beanie Babies and Jelly Shoes. Or maybe, it has simply gone the way of the rest of Flint.

Like Jelly shoes the experience did not meet the hype. The burgers in their fresh-baked buns were tasty, but the fries were not kid-friendly with their coating of black pepper. That was for the best, though, because the fry portion was so small. Because business was slow, the topping bar was a wilting disappointment, a sad collection of chopped up vegetables that would most likely end up in the trash can.

So sad was the environment that my children did not even ask to visit the small arcade in the back. With Fuddrucker’s, the overpriced burgers are so suppose to be justified by the atmosphere. They were not.

I tell my children never to believe the hype of products they see on television. However, I understand how deeply commercials can target our deepest desires. For me, as a child, it was the lure of a suburban childhood, a place full of sidewalks, family nights out to the movies, arcades, and the world’s greatest hamburgers.