If I were one of those Good Bloggers who kept a filing system, this post would be filed under: Boring Stuff Moms Talk About. And with Memorial Day rapidly approaching (yay!), the topic we're all discussing is What are your kids doing over the summer?
Kids today have a gigantically gigantic list of options for organized summer activities. You have your standard all-purpose day camps, as well as a dizzying list of specialty summer camps.
Now, normally I'm totally jazzed about all the options available for Nathan's entertainment and enrichment. The park district summer catalog comes in the mail, and I'm all, Yay, let's get out the highlighter and find ways fill up our summer!
This year, though, I'm just not feeling it. It's the end of the school year, and even though Nathan is just finishing up three-day-a-week preschool, I feel burned out. I'm tired of having to wake him up and dress his half-asleep body and try to cram some breakfast, any breakfast, into him. I'm tired of GET IN THE CAR COME ON NO YOU LIKE SCHOOL STOP IT GET IN THE CAR COME ON WE'RE LATE I SAID GET IN THE CAR. I'm sick of living my life on a frantic schedule wherein everything I do must be crammed into the three-hour window between 9:00 and noon.
So why would I want to prolong this same exact scenario all summer long by putting him in a day camp five days a week?
And the fact of the matter is that Nathan doesn't really like a full schedule of organized activities. Day camp forces both of us to confront three of Nathan's most challenging qualities: (1) He doesn't like to get up early, (2) He doesn't like to transition from one activity to the next against his will, and (3) He doesn't like being told how to spend his leisure time.
And yes, I understand that all three of those are Useful Life Skills that he needs to develop. He'll need to become a little more flexible in order to succeed in school and in life.
But he can practice those skills in the fall. For now he needs a break, and so do I. It just doesn't seem like camp--a situation that's supposed to be fun--is the time and place to enforce responsibility and discipline.
Therefore, this year we're going with the more laid-back, old-fashioned, see-where-the-day-takes-us plan for summer. It all sounds so simple and pleasant (also: cheaper).
Still, I have my reservations. For one thing, the less-structured plan is a complete 180 from the philosophy I've held in the past. (Well, maybe more like a 140. Aren't math metaphors useful?) I have long believed that I personally need the structure of a fixed schedule of activities to maintain my own sanity. A long day of nothing to do sounds good on paper, but often results in a wasted, unproductive day where I procrastinate on all my obligations and Nathan watches too much TV.
And let me talk about TV a little more. I think the idea of an unscheduled summer day conjures up images of sleeping in, followed by a leisurely breakfast on the porch and a day of spontaneous activities like building a blanket fort and coloring with sidewalk chalk. And while those activities are in our rotation, more often than not a free day at home deteriorates into excessive screen time for Nathan. That's especially true when I have an influx of work and need an easy way to keep Nathan occupied.
Which brings me to the topic of Camp As Affordable Childcare. If I end up with a significant amount of work this summer, would it be easier to just have Nathan in camp for several hours a day so I can have uninterrupted work time? Wouldn't it be better to have him in a setting where he can participate in constructive activities with kids his own age, rather than being parked in front of the TV or forced to play alone all day while I work? Or is it actually harder to juggle working and the camp schedule than it is to work while he's at home with me (admittedly interrupting me a lot)? These are questions I I can't answer until I get a better feel for what my summer workload may be like.
For now, I'm hoping that we have enough planned to balance my need for structure with Nathan's need for a break. I have in no way taken any measures to accommodate the x-factor that is my potential need for childcare while I work, because in the world of freelance, the workload is so unpredictable that any attempt to plan for future childcare makes my head hurt. (Also I have a sort of Murphy's Law belief that the less childcare I have scheduled, the more likely it is that I'll get work to do. So I try not to schedule childcare.)
I did sign Nathan up for four weeks of morning swim lessons (half an hour each morning, four mornings a week), because learning how to swim is non-negotiable. And I guess it's not totally accurate to say he isn't doing any camp, because I did sign him up for the Safety Town program in August, which is a famed program in my town wherein incoming kindergarteners get some back-to-school safety information while driving around in little toy cars.
I figure with those activities, plus the gym in the morning and the public pool in the afternoons, we'll be busy enough. And we're committed to t-ball through the end of June. I reserve the right to sign him up for camp at a future date if the shit hits the fan for me, sanity-wise, because in addition to the whole work thing, Good Lord I won't have any time to run errands child-free (though my husband is home a lot more in the summertime). Or, I might just have a babysitter come to the house, because, believe it or not, Nathan actually told me the other day that he wants to have a babysitter more often. (This was part of a conversation that began with, "Mom, when are you gonna get a JOB?")
So, those are my views on the important topic of How to Schedule Your Kid's Summer Vacation. And, as always, let me note that I am only speaking to what I hope is right for my child and my family and my situation. Everybody's situation varies. Some kids actually like camps and organized activity. And I fully acknowledge that camp is the most affordable childcare option for parents who work outside the home or work from home. I'm not anti-camp. I'm just not sure camp is the right decision for us at this particular time. I think. Maybe.