Making Summer Memories…

If you’re an assistant professor with young children, few periods in your life will be more stress-filled than the summer before you apply for tenure.  How can you take a family vacation when you must devote virtually every waking hour to preparing for your T & P application in the fall?

Sending the kids to a three-month sleepaway-survivalist camp in Newfoundland is likely to be prohibitively expensive.  And if yours is a typical family, all four grandparents have serious drinking problems, which means that having your offspring stay with them for the summer is not a realistic option.  

What is needed here is a little creativity.  It is in this spirit that University Life presents five expert-endorsed vacation recommendations for tenure-track faculty members facing severe time constraints.  

1 If you live near the Northeast Corridor, you can make the round trip from Boston to Washington, DC and back in a single day on Amtrak’s Acela Express (less than seven hours each way).  What kid doesn’t love a train ride?  There’s so much to see, even if much of it will be blurry because the train is going really fast.  When you arrive at DC’s Union Station, treat the family to a food-court meal at Chick fil-A or Shake Shack and then hop on the next Acela for the return trip.  If you sit on the same side of the aisle heading north as you did traveling south, your kids will experience new scenery.  Voila!  Vacation accomplished in less than 24 hours!

2 — Have your children watch the Live Cam of a bald eagle’s nest in Big Bear Valley, California.  The Live Cam operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Need we say more?  Just plunk the kids down in front of a PC with a 14-day supply of Cheetos and Mountain Dew, and then head to your home office to tackle that “Revise and Resubmit” manuscript on the Taylor Swift/Jonathan Swift connection that’s been bedeviling you.  You’ll get crucial work done while your offspring learn how our national bird feeds its young.  

3 — If you reside in a state that has legalized recreational marijuana, your vacation problems are so over.  Simply set up the kids in the den with a month’s worth of THC gummies and a couple of spinning multi-color pinwheels, and they will be mesmerized for days on end while you review page proofs for your forthcoming book on the history of Amish full-body tattoos.

4 — Is there anything more thrilling for youngsters than spending a week in the New York Public Library while you pore over the collected papers of Joan Didion?  Hell no.  Attach ankle monitors to your kids and then set them loose in this majestic building every morning.  Challenge them to find ways of gaining access to the restricted rare-book archives and removing items.  They’ll love you for sending them on this high adventure with nothing more than a penknife and a compass. 

5 — What’s more fun than popping bubble wrap?  Not a damn thing.  Buy a dozen giant rolls of industrial bubble wrap and toss them into the basement with your offspring.  The kids will have a month of nonstop excitement while you figure out how to put a positive spin on the less-than-stellar student evaluations your teaching has received over the past five years.  (Bubble-wrap vacations work best with children who are not academically gifted.) 

With these suggestions in mind, there’s no need to sacrifice your kids’ summer happiness in order for you to achieve promotion and tenure.  Good luck.