This last Wednesday ended the official school year and now my seventeen year old son is on the loose. What's worse, he has his video games back. Allow me to explain.
My son is a bright kid. He's in honors math and french. He consistently achieves A's and B's in all his courses. But then he dropped to a C+ in history. Apparently he forgot to turn some work in, and bombed a quiz. Accordingly, my wife and I took away his video games. Because that's the consequence for anything less than a B.
He wasn't thrilled with losing his video games, but he adapted. First, he figured out how to reprogram his scientific calculator into a video game. I'm not making this up. Then he started watching "The Simpsons" videos after his homework was done. To his credit, he also picked up Stranger in a Strange Land to read, which my wife and I applauded.
Things were going along swimmingly, and it was nice to not hear the sounds of video game screeches and screams coming from his room. But then finals week ended and my son checked the online grade reports. He strolled into my art studio where I had stowed away his video game equipment. "Hey Dad, guess what?" he said with a grin. "I got a B in history." I knew what that meant. He also confirmed that all his other classes were A's and B's.
Shortly after I handed over his video game stuff, my son's buddy rang the doorbell. They retreated to his room, donned headsets and juggled their game controllers. And then the screeches and screams returned. I escaped to the back yard for a glass of white wine and a good book. My wife was lucky. She was working that evening.
The following afternoon my son called me at work. "Can a couple of my buddies come over and hang?" he asked. "Yeah, I guess so," I answered, knowing that I would be stuck feeding them all. After work, I came home to four teenage boys in my living room, on another gaming bender. I called in a couple of extra large pizzas and holed up in my art studio.
Now, losing my living room and big flatscreen TV to rabid teenage gamers would normally be a bad thing. But I discovered a surprising benefit to the eviction. It forced me to focus on my creativity. Soon I was doodling a ballpoint and watercolor sketch of some trees in a meadow.
That lead to clamping a panel on my easel and mixing some paint. The original design and final study were inspired by a Scott L. Christensen painting I'd recently looked at in one of my books. So it's not a piece I'd ever sell. It was just for practice. But if my son and his friends were not chasing zombies with flame throwers, chances are I would have been watching the news instead of painting.
The promise of summer is a chance to slow down, take a vacation and reconnect with family and friends. It means a break from school for our kids, but it's also a good time to recommit yourself to the stuff you're passionate about.
Whether it's painting, woodworking, sculpting, music, cooking or gardening, summer is the perfect time to dive back in. Having a creative outlet is so important to your mental and physical wellbeing. Unlike television, a creative outlet can fully immerse you in a very gratifying experience.
You don't need a living room full of teenage boys, pizza and video games to turn off the TV and settle into your hobby. All you really need is the desire, motivation and time. May this summer reacquaint you with your creative passions!