I hate camp. I hate trying to figure out what kinds of camps my kids are interested in. I hate figuring out which of their friends will be attending which camps and when. I hate determining carpools for camp. I hate balancing my checkbook with funny accounting to figure out how on earth I am going to pay for camp.
Don't get me wrong - I loved camp as a kid. All that outdoor play, all that energy put towards nothing but fun. For years, I schlepped far and wide to attend a very special arts camp that my cousins ran on Long Island. It was camp with a capital "C."I loved sleep-away camp as a young teen. All those hormones shaken up like a cocktail, day after day, for the whole summer, not to mention bug juice – delicious.
And once I was 14, back at my cousins' day camp, I adored being a counselor – the sweet feeling of a little kid's hand in mine, trusting me to get her to the swimming pool each day and make sure she had the right snack.
But as a parent – I hate camp.
Ask any mother of school age children around the middle of February and without so much as blinking she will be able to tell you the starting date on each of the 10 or 11 weeks of the upcoming summer and which camps have availability on those weeks. Her camp matrix has long been committed to memory so that it’s available at the snap of a finger if another mother happens to ask. The complicated grids, spreadsheets, cost-benefit analyses, carpool equations and health forms have all been tackled. The summer is set. Like the school year, it’s an exquisite balance of camp, work, transportation issues and extended day hours. If one cog falls out of place, she’s sunk.
This is true for both at-home moms as well as for moms who work outside the home, but it is especially grueling on those moms with jobs and bosses who expect them to spend some time in the office over the summer months. School’s out mid-June; camp starts at least a week later, so families often feel forced into an early summer vacation. Camps for the most part end in early August; school begins in late August, and there is another hiatus of at least two and sometimes three weeks to fill with activities.
(And yes, feminist that I am, I truly believe that for the most part, this sweet planning chore falls in the mother's lap 98% of the time. Ask a typical dad about a camp schedule and he will grumble about how much it costs or smile beatifically and tell you that it's all worked out, but he won't be able to tell you which week basketball camp starts.)
Then there is the subject of transportation. Most kids go to school pretty close to home and either walk or take a local school bus. Camp, however, offers an array of choices all over the area, and parents must decide how many times they can duck out of work early to drive that extra five or ten miles to get to the camp where their kids can enjoy the green outdoors.
Can you tell how cranky I'm getting? And it's only April.
Camp offers children amazing opportunities to learn how to play, how to swim, how to tackle sports, how to make friends, and how to just be. My oldest child, for the first time, is interested in going to sleep-away camp this summer, and I am thrilled. I've long wanted him to have this very special experience of being away from home, with friends and in a setting that is safe, bucolic and healthy.
But trying to figure out how we're going to pay for this experience is one for the record books.
Fortunately, my younger kids seem happy with local sports camps, which are easier on the wallet. But there is still the subject of getting them there and back and figuring out if their friends are going, because we can't go to camp without at least one friend.
I just got an email from one of my younger son's friend's moms, with her dates and family vacations and possibilities for having our two kids, who live around the corner from each other, meet up for one week this summer in a camp 30 minutes from our neighborhood.
My daughter is also desperate to join the swim team this year, which apparently has practices every day after camp, as well as meets on weeknights and weekends.
I'm breaking out the spreadsheet.
Have I mentioned that I hate camp?
Photo by GraceFamly via Flickr