Monday, February 28, 2011

When Winter Equals Summer

It’s winter in Northern California; though we don’t have the bitter cold and snow that seems to be attacking the rest of the country like an alien horde, we do have buckets of rain, intermittent hail, and the worst weather-related torture of all: meteorologists who summarize every Five Day Forecast by saying, “Of course, all that rain is probably still not enough to save the state from drought.” With all these signs of a prolonged winter around me, it’s obvious what’s on my mind:

Summer Camp. 

The bane of the working parent in the 21st century, Summer Camp is where you send your kid when schools close their doors for two point five months. The brochures start arriving in the mail around the time that I’m taking the holiday wreath off the door. Sarah’s Science Camp! Roughing It Day Camp! Junior Center for Arts and Sciences Camp! Touch the Earth Day Camp (referred to by mothers of sons as Touch the Dirt)!

Each colorful handout offers compelling reasons to enroll your child, designed to make the youngsters in the house do the selling. “Pllleeeeeeease, Mom, please let me go to Ice Cream Camp in July! I get to make ice cream every day!” Well, that is something that has been sorely missing from your life. You’re right, you should go there.

But the truth is, they do have to go somewhere during the day so that you can continue to do your job, which stubbornly refuses to give you two point five months off, even when you’re self-employed. So it may as well be ice cream camp, and then a three week drama camp that starts the week after which the kid is actually not that excited about but it fills the schedule, plus you have a neighbor who will carpool with you.

Ah yes, the all important carpool. It's all well and good when your child has a friend attending the same camp, but as a wise parent you see the real benefit – the more friends who attend the same camp, the higher the likelihood that you can split the drop offs and pickups and even manage an occasional “is it okay if your daughter comes home with us after camp to hang out with Junior for awhile?” The emails start flying – which camps is your child attending, and when? Parents study complicated shared spreadsheets like runes. How can I minimize my driving and maximize the after-camp playdate potential?

Because the camps don’t believe in keeping your child one minute longer than they have to. It’s summer! They should be outside exploring and doing summery things! At least, I assume that’s the justification for having day camps that close at 11:30 a.m. That is not a day camp, by the way, that is a pre-brunch camp. I have barely scratched the surface of work email by 11:15, and now the kid needs to be picked up and fed lunch. What is this, 1956?

If you have more than one kid, good luck finding a camp that appeals to both children at the same time. You either force the issue and deal with the complaints of the kid who hates the water but has to attend swim camp with his older brother, or try to make everyone happy and go through more gas than a Hummer limo.  I have a friend whose family is taking a six week sabbatical in Europe this summer, and I think she's more excited about getting out of planning camp than she is about traveling abroad.

By March 1 the months of July and August on my family calendar look like a Mondrian painting: blue blocks for the oldest daughter’s camps, yellow for the youngest, and the rare and wonderful green blocks when they are in the same place at the same time. The checkbook coughs out its last deposit and collapses, empty. I enter Reese's Peanut Butter Egg season (some call it Easter) feeling like perhaps I have it all sorted out, and I relax for a few weeks.

Then in early June, someone mentions that ice cream camp only meets four days a week, plus since it's 4th of July that week they don't have camp on Tuesday, or that the ballet intensive camp that the kids must attend to progress to the next level has finally been announced, and conflicts with another camp you've already paid for. 

It's about that time when I start researching policy makers who are leading the charge for 12 months of school so I can contribute to their campaigns. Sure, it'll make Jack a dull boy. But isn't that preferable to sparing Jack the sight of his mother curled into the fetal position?


  1. You said it! What happens when one child decides that none of her past camps are happening this summer? Panic.

  2. Are you somewhere in my house this morning, Nancy? I fought with the Oakland Parks and Rec site to enroll #1 and #2 in sailing camp and then emailed a friend for an idea of where to send # 3 that week. Lots of effort - zero weeks scheduled, no carpools arranged. I failed.

  3. As usual a great post! And mea culpa. Knit One One is a pre Brunch camp of Afternoon Tea if you prefer!

  4. Jill - I say put that kid to work. Time to be a CIT somewhere?

    Karen - I am hiding in that basement room. It is so peaceful there.

    Sile - if I sign the girls up, can you just send them down to the bakery for the rest of the afternoon? I'll be by eventually...

  5. Please. You just gave me a terrifying flashback. Wait til you have to hassle them every minute to find an internship...

  6. Great post! Thank you for helping me understand why I dread this activity. It's the combination of
    1. Finding a camp my kids will like
    2. Finding a camp with hours I need that isn't a gazillion miles away
    3. Coordinating the whole friend/playmate/carpool aspect.
    Just thinking about it makes me want to take a nap.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...