The hot mess that was summer camps – 10 things to remember NOW to make life WAY easier next year. August 18 2016, 0 Comments

Summer Camp Files

Every year, I accumulate mountains of summer camp brochures promising enriching, life-changing, once in a lifetime and endlessly fun experiences for my kiddos.  Planning 90 days of activities plus coordinating camps with other parents, carpools, pick-ups, and remembering to spray down my kids with bug repellent and sunscreen gets old after week two. 

At the end of each summer, I berate myself for signing up for the camp madness, and re-commit to making life easier next year.  However, once spring rolls around, my FOMO (fear of missing out) takes over, and I succumb to the happy camper pictures, as I can’t stomach the thought of my child missing out.  Not to mention – I love the feeling of getting the summer schedule organized and camp registrations complete – it’s strangely satisfying.

In order to truly re-commit to making life easier for next year – I’ve decided to write down my notes before the rosy haze of post summer “bliss” sets-in, so I remember how everything really went: 

1.  Anything that's billed as a "Star Wars" camp is over-rated.

Let me translate.  "Star Wars" camp is making light sabers out of pool noodles and duct tape, playing "ships across the galaxy" (a clever adaption of "ships across the ocean"), and coloring lots of droids. 

2. Shuttling kids sucks - even in the summer.  Pick stuff close by.  
 
3.  Say NO to anything that requires more than 5+ pieces of equipment.

This includes hockey, baseball, and ice-skating.  Trying to dress a small child in sticky, humid weather is not fun.  Add another crying kid (or 2) and it gets worse.  Stick with soccer, swimming, basketball, or tennis.

4.  Camps always involve more parent time than advertised.

    Why do week-long camps end with an hour long talent show (during the middle of the day)?  Sure – it’s cute – but, is it necessary?  If you don’t go, your kid will remember this moment forever, and if you do go, its 2 hours that that I hadn’t accounted for at the beginning of the week that is now causing significant stress. 

    5.  Expensive doesn’t mean better.

      Just because you’re asked to shell out more money, doesn’t mean the experience will be 5 stars – kids find joy in simple things.  While building elaborate STEM contraptions sounds cool – sometimes, playing with an empty Amazon cardboard box for hours can be even better.

      6.  Summer Fun Math Camp does not involve much “math” or “fun.”

      A three hour intense academic math camp = one hour of eating (lunch + two 15 minute snack breaks), ½ hour free-time on playground, 30 minutes of color-by-numbers, and 30 minutes of math worksheets.  I won’t be fooled again.

      Math Worksheets

      7.  Home is OK too!

      I’ve had to be more creative in the summer, as camps can cost a small fortune.  Sometimes, I feel guilty about my kids being home so much – but home is their connection point.  It’s where they feel safe and grounded.  My kids (like us adults) need their downtime – and home is a great place to unwind. 

      8.  Sometimes the best moments are spontaneous.

      Despite my type A, plan-everything-always, personality, I find some of our most joyous moments are last minute and easy…fishing (and kissing the fishes), making chocolate brownies, or a surprise run-in with friends at the park (this ALWAYS makes my kids day).
      Fishing in the summer
      9.  If you're not comfortable with the activity planned - don't do it.

      Wait another year.  Admittedly – a bunch of high-school kids (while completely well intentioned) watching loads of kids especially near water makes me uneasy.  Even if everyone else is doing it - if it doesn't feel right - there's always next year. 

      10.  Don’t worry about “falling behind” during the summer. 

        There is so much more to childhood development than math, reading, science and all the academic stuff – summer is all about exploration and discovery, and of course, play.  I know I can easily get caught up in the “what if my child falls behind” mentality – but the reality is, just playing to have fun is critical.  Remember, we have the whole school year to fret about “getting results”.

        I don’t know if I’ll get swept up in the promise of camp season when next year rolls around, but I know I won’t be making the same mistakes, and, I’ll have a bit more perspective to be able to manage our schedules, and sanity, a bit better.