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What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

By Seth Swirsky

This summer I took my sons, ages 11 and 3, to visit grandma and grandpa on Long Island.

It was the house I grew up in, my parents were still the same people who had raised me, and my boys did many of the things I used to do when I was their ages.

The car seat was broken, so my three year old was, gasp, strapped in by a seat belt. Believe it or not, he survived! We went to restaurants where, God forgive me, we were all exposed to second-hand smoke. Somehow, I don't know how, we survived.

My parents somehow missed the whole "health food" craze - in which "whole grain" and "organic" are really code words for expensive and tasteless. In between some home-cooked meals, there were plenty of Cheetos and Yodels, and lots of kisses (both the real and the Hershey kind). We drank Diet Cokes and not a single shot of carrot juice was consumed (or mentioned) all week. Again, amazingly, we survived.

The sun shone every day we were there, yet not a single drop of sunscreen was applied. I had forgotten to bring it. What, you say, you allowed the natural rays of the sun to hit your boys? Call child services immediately! It reminded me of my carefree days at summer camp in the early 70s, when the sun hit your face and it just felt good, as it has for billions of people for tens of thousands of years, BSS - Before Sun Screen.

The kids played, stayed up too late, and bathed when they needed it, not as part of a rigid regimen. Yes, they survived.

I know, I know: car seats are safer (certainly for infants), and multigrain food is probably healthier - but at what cost? Don't we have taste buds for a reason? I want my kids to LOVE the taste of food!

Visiting the old homestead reminded me of a time when kids were allowed to just be kids. When a strict time limit on TV watching was nonexistent. When we were taught math and science in school, not self-esteem, and where education trumped indoctrination.

It was good to see joy, rather than the anxiety that is routinely instilled in our children by a culture (and media) that emphasize all the bad news and minimize all the good, life-affirming news. It was good to be in an environment where common sense, and not pop-psych theories, ruled. It was good to be reminded of a time when "Mommy and Me" meant a mother and her child doing everyday things that brought them closer and not attending a "class" designed to teach every mother and child how to think, speak and behave.

It was good to remember a time when cigarette smoke might have been annoying, but it wasn't all the rage (quite literally) or the most important thing on the planet. It was good to remember a time when kids ate candy because it tasted good and it's what kids do. And it was good for my kids to see that the hyper-hysteria that is the stuff of today's world is not the real world but only - unfortunately - their world.

In a country where half the people are more concerned with global warming than global fascism, I know it will be hard for my kids to have the same less-regulated experience I had growing up. At least Jujyfruits haven't been targeted yet!

Seth Swirsky is a hit songwriter and best selling author. He can be reached through his site,

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