My son Nathan simply refused to let me schedule anything for him that summer. He was about 10 years old and recuperating from a cracked bone in his ankle. He was getting around just fine but his leg was in a cast and he couldn’t go swimming or participate in other sports. His older sister was away at sleep-over camp and he had his mama’s full attention. Poor kid. Since he wasn’t going to enroll in any organized summer activities I took the parental power route and decided that he would not waste the entire summer reading comic books and reorganizing his baseball cards. (I can just hear myself saying that to him in my bossy mom voice.) We were going to devise his own personal enrichment program—what I called “Charm School.” I didn’t go to the extent of trying to ram etiquette down his throat, but I was determined to find ways to expand his mind and hopefully to entertain him at the same time. I don’t recall giving him any veto power over the activities I scheduled but I did try to find angles to the culture that would capture his imagination.
Because we lived in Northern Virginia, just outside the nation’s capital, we had the all the Smithsonian museums and other cultural attractions within minutes of home. We went to the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery to see an exhibition of Asian warrior art—Nathan loved drawing pictures of “guys” fighting battles and so he loved the room-sized paintings of the warriors. We went to the FBI museum to see exhibits on infamous criminals, sawed-off shotguns, and ingenious weapons the bad guys had developed. But in the end, the bad guys got caught by the good guys and justice prevailed. We went to the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia, a real former torpedo factory that was redeveloped into art studios. I gave Nathan my camera and let him take photos. (You can see photos I took of him attached to this posting.) I think I got him to cook too, but have no recollection of what we cooked and I don’t think the cooking thing stuck with him either.
The thing I remember most was that we spent time together doing things that he would like. In a sense it would have been easier for me to have let him sit in front of the television and read comic books. Because I didn’t want him to have a lazy kid summer, I couldn’t be a lazy mom either. And now I remember that special time with my boy. I’m not sure that Charm School had that much influence on him, but I think he turned out to be a charming man.