By Jason Wright
Schools are closed - pools are open. Buses are parked. Parks are brimming with bikes, kites and basketballs.
Welcome to summer 2013. It's time to stock up on charcoal and ice, Popsicles and Pop Rocks, sparklers and sprinklers, bubbles, bubble gum and Kleenex.
Yes, Kleenex. Because if it's summertime, it's also time for those red-hot romances that start with sparks and almost always end with tears.
You remember the summer romance, don't you? Your neighbor invited a cousin to spend the summer from Savannah, Ga. A friend brought her BFF from Fresno, Calif., to band camp. You met a foreign-exchange student from Georgia - the country, not the state.
You said, "Hello," exchanged smiles, felt the flutters, and before you could run in the opposite direction, you were living in a Bryan Adams music video. But the odds were never in your favor, and by the time Labor Day hit, your romance ended like a Nicolas Cage movie - with a thud.
Take it from someone with a doctorate in adolescent puppy love. Hot summer romances are like hot summer peppers. They seem like a good idea at the time, but usually lead to heartburn.
As a teenager, I had several of these short-term, county-fair hand-holding, diving-board show-off summer romances. My parents warned me not to fall in like with the girl I met at the lake or the movies or mini-golfing. But what did they know?
Plenty, it turns out. Each of those summer romances ended with an awkward goodbye, promises to keep in touch and hours of listening to my "Richard Marx Greatest Hits" tape in my basement.
A few years have passed and somehow I have two teenage daughters of my own. So it's my turn to dish out advice on matters of the heart, right?
To the Wright daughters and teenagers everywhere, I offer 20 things to consider embracing this summer besides a summer romance.
1. Read the entire Nancy Drew series, all 56 of the originals.
2. Write book reports about each of the volumes in the entire Nancy Drew series.
3. Volunteer at a nursing home.
4. Learn a new sport.
5. Learn to use an iron.
6. Take an online class.
7. Read the Bible cover to cover.
8. Learn Spanish.
9. Read the Bible cover to cover - in Spanish.
10. Become a certified lifeguard.
11. Write in your journal.
12. Invent your own language.
13. Interview your grandparents.
14. Learn to safely use a lawn mower and WeedEater.
15. Start a business.
16. Write a short novel.
17. Make friends with someone different than you.
18. Watch the news and ask your parents questions.
19. Learn to make your parents' favorite dinner.
20. Start a YouTube channel teaching kids the lost art of crochet.
This summer, more than anything, I hope my kids and yours make pleasant, colorful memories that never fade and I pray they enjoy their childhoods as long as they can. Life will present plenty of opportunities for love and drama - what's the rush?
Hey, kids, go get started. Play safe. Be smart. Don't fall head over heels for the new guy or girl that just moved in from Lithuania. It will only lead to heartbreak.
But if you do, I just might let you borrow that Richard Marx tape. Are you going to need it? Si.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters" and "The 13th Day of Christmas." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or jasonfwright.com.