© Darya Petrenko | Dreamstime.com
Ahhh, have you noticed the milder temperatures recently? I think I felt the whisper of summer. After a long, harsh winter, what could possibly sound more inviting than warmer temperatures and the relaxation the summer schedule brings. As we hurtle towards the end of the school year, where TCAPs and projects lurk, we anticipate throwing off the shackles of the early morning rat race and fantasize about a kinder, gentler start to the day.
We’re ready for mornings blissfully free of whining, tantrums, and head butting with children who simply dally instead of getting dressed and helping mom by getting out to the car This Instant or we will Be Late For School.
(This is a daily routine, after all. Shouldn’t it get easier?)
But wait. Before you can reach that summer nirvana, there’s this little thing called Planning My Child’s Summer Camp Experience that stands in your way. Just ask any working parent of children under the age of 12. March is the frenzied month we collectively begin pondering overnight and day camp options so our children will experience something more enriching than countless hours playing video games and watching SpongeBob on Nickelodeon.
Here’s how your summer camp scheduling might go down. First, you’ll scour a good camp source (like this magazine) for helpful ads and overviews, followed by interviews with friends in hopes of getting the tips you need to find the best camp for your kid. It can be a tricky fit. While your kid loves doing magic for your friends after dinner, and is adventurous (to a point), at other times he can be incredibly shy, and sooo picky about his food, and terrified of spiders (is there a tactful way of asking how counselors manage a kid who’s hyperventilating over the sight of a spider?).
You’ll fret over whether he’ll fit in or pick up an itchy case of posion ivy. Then you'll scrutinize his wardrobe, making a mental note not to accidently pack his Batman underwear or his Where’s Waldo T-shirts (even though these are at-home favorites). In fact, since you are a camp novice, you’ll mistakenly send your child away with a lovely selection of cool T-shirts that, in all likelihood, you will never, ever see again — even though your child’s name is clearly printed in GIANT BLACK BLOCK LETTERS on every item of clothing he owns. It’s kind of like the dryer/socks dilemma, it shouldn’t happen but it does.
Once you’ve zeroed in on a possible destination, you’ll call the camp director and gently ask her how the camp is managed and how much training the counselors receive and what type of food they serve and whether they accommodate a child who’s slightly averse to showering with others, and is it okay to send him alone without a best friend?
And she’ll calmly and rationally answer every single question because she’s a camp professional and fields calls like yours at least a couple times a week. At the end of your conversation, she’ll tell you in most confident tones, “Don’t worry, Mom, your son will do just fine. Trust me, he’s going to have a great camp experience!!” And you’ll breathe just a little bit easier as you fill out the three-page camp registration form and send in the deposit and wonder what you’ll do with yourself for an entire week without having a child at home to worry over. Or feed. Or take ten places.
Instead, you'll be faced with an entire week to yourself. Imagine that. Nirvana is definitely within reach.
Then you’ll sit down with your boy and try to have an informed conversation about what a sleepover camp is like and you’ll share your happiest camp memories with him and you’ll try to anticipate the stuff he might experience, like homesickness, except none of this will really register because your kid has never been away from home for a full week before and so has no idea of what’s in store.
Instead, you’ll repeat the camp director’s motto, that he’ll be just fine and will have a great camp experience. And the rest of your plans will gradually fall into place and before you know it, the summer of nirvana will be just another billboard growing smaller in the rearview mirror of childhood. So take a deep breath and just relax. A great summer is just around the corner, I promise.