In a twist on the classic back-to-school assignment, I posed these questions to pets of school-age kids:
How did you spend your summer vacation? What made your activities special or meaningful? What did you learn?
He spent a lot of relaxing time outdoors with his kids. “We did summer-fun things. We walked around and learned. It was fun. We could explore a lot.” He and his family took a trip to the beach where “we learned how to cooperate”. Because each family member had to learn how to do something new, such as work the camp stove or put up the tent, they all had to help each other. “We learned to live on a boat” too, proper safety on deck and sailing techniques. Bailey noticed that the oldest son had more interest and knowledge about sailing than the other family members and it took some adjusting for the parents to allow him to lead them. Bailey’s very proud of the way his family worked together. He feels this shared experience helped bring them together and strengthen their bonds.
This summer “we did a lot, playing in the yard”, running with friends, playing with the whole family, inventing impromptu games. “We were having so much fun! Together is a blast.”
Through observing his kids and how they’re changing as they grow up, Timmy learned “being a baby is a bore”. He sees kids have more fun as they get older, and even more fun as they reach the age when they look ahead and begin to see the possibilities life has to offer. He sees his own little girl is now considered “a little miss” by her relatives and everyone is excited to talk of her future and what she might become.
Lady, Pit bull mix:
Lady stayed with grandma and grandpa while her family went away on vacation. She enjoyed visiting with them but missed her family too. She learned “It’s a little lonely visiting relatives” without your family with you. She feels this experience helped her mature, because she had a lot of time to think. She feels everyone can grow by having the time to think about something for a long time.
Nikko, 2 year old cat:
She had a thought-provoking summer as well. “We didn’t do ANYthing, it was dumb. We sat around and watched TV.” Nikko says her girl decided “life is boring, fun is nowhere.” She’s in that stage of life where she seeks adventure and a normal life seems extremely dull and confining. Nikko’s personality is of a follower and she takes on the ideas and feelings of her girl, wanting to be like her. She strives to be close to her family emotionally and becoming like them is the best way she knows to feel that connection. It’s worked well for her, till this year. Now Nikko is realizing her girl’s negative attitude is limiting them both. Nikko wants to stop holding back and pretending she’s not enjoying things simply because someone else doesn’t enjoy them. This summer “I learned I want to be free” to enjoy life, not weighed down by anyone’s negativity.
Isabel, recently adopted cat:
This summer she and her boy tumbled and played together, in a special way, unique to them. “My favorite thing is to roll and play.” The boy first observed her way of play then joined in, mimicking and following her lead, being sure to be gentle with her. Isabel says “It felt special to be treated so well.”
“I learned my family loves me! All of us – we’re one. It’s a good feeling to be growing up in this family.”
Austin, yellow lab:
He and his girl were inseparable. All summer “I walked EVERYWHERE with her. We did lots of things. It was good to have freedom.” A very special memory was a day he and his girl met a man whom his girl admires deeply. The girl had read of the man’s accomplishments and seen his picture on TV many times, and it was a big honor to meet him face to face.
From their experiences this summer “I learned to have friends is a lot. To be quiet is a lot. We’re always learning and growing – to see things is the way to do it.” Austin observed that each small experience his girl had taught her something, however minor, and the sum of these experiences is what leads to true knowledge.
“We rode for miles and miles”, free, no agenda, simply for the joy of riding. Other days she and her girl planned ahead for special day-long riding adventures. It was relaxing, “so soft and easy” sharing these times together. Sierra feels this summer was especially meaningful to them both because her girl is realizing her life will be changing soon, with college fast approaching, and “she’ll one day miss these times”.
Sierra ponders that up to this point they’ve been a team, equals. This summer has shown her that her role is slowly changing as her girl grows up, and that there’s more to Sierra’s role in this relationship than she thought. She sees her role evolving from friend to mentor, a mature steady presence her girl can always come to who can help her make sense of the world. As her role expands in that way, Sierra knows that sadly it also means she must watch and allow the teenager to make her own choices (and mistakes) as her girl gradually leaves her and makes her way into her adult life.