At a picnic yesterday, I caught up with some friends, and the inevitable “So, what are your kids doing this summer?” question came up. One of my friends, a mother of two, rattled off her daughters’ plans: camp A, gymnastics camp, and camp B. There may have even been a camp C. Plus, her kids, while close in age, will be a different places for some of that time. So she’s in for weeks of double drop off and pick-ups and a Google calendar that’s rainbow-colored with scheduling details.
A second friend explained that her son has three different camps lined up for the summer, including one focused on music and another on outdoor sports and activities. Still another mom shared her daughter’s plans. And, if I had asked every parent at the picnic what their kids’ were up to, chances are they would each have yet a different concoction of vacation, camp, and babysitters—each one stitched together to fit their family’s needs and budget.
The conversation left me wondering: How did summer become so complicated?
As my son ends kindergarten and as I approach my family’s first summer break without childcare automatically in place, summer takes scheduling snafus to a whole other level. It’s a challenge for both working and stay-at-home parents, I’m learning, but the stakes are higher for working parents who must have a destination for their kids each day—ideally one with extended day. My friends’ plans were all built on the hope that they could find a safe, fun place for their children while not having to dip too deeply into their vacation time or wallets. It was effort to make that happen.
Parents, I realized this winter, need to figure out their kids’ summer plans months in advance. When the camp open houses were announced for February and March, we were still knee-deep (literally) in snow. Summer seemed so very far away. Camp paperwork beckoned and the threat of being stuck on a waiting list loomed.
And camp is not cheap, but really no childcare option for kids is these days. Whether you’re sending your kid to robotics or dance camp or staying home for a lazy summer by the pool, there’s a cost ultimately—in time, dollars, planning. Summer schedules make public school, with its “surprise, it’s a half day” occurrences, seem easy by comparison.
This year, we decided to go low-key: we opted-out of the camp mania, instead pulling our daughter out of day care and our son out of after school for June. We hired a summer nanny, someone we’ve known for years and whom my kids love (a lot). She gets my son off to school, takes my daughter to swim lessons, shuttles both kids to piano lessons, and keeps them entertained with games and outdoor fun. My daughter has been falling asleep much easier at night, thanks to the exhaustion that comes from a full day of fun. And, my husband and I have discovered the perk of a nanny: she comes to our house, helps with the kids so we can get out the door on time for work, even unloads the dishwasher. She’s given us a bit of room to breathe—which is, after all, the purpose of summer!
She’ll keep my kids busy—don’t worry! I have signed up them for classes at Drumlin Farm, they’ll be hitting the town pool for daily swim lessons, and there’s a theatre camp in August. I also have workbooks ready for math and reading lessons to help stave off summer learning loss. Most of all, though, they will play—together and with friends—and just be kids.
Next summer, who knows what we’ll do. I’ll figure that out when the camp open house notices come this winter.
What are your kids doing this summer? Share your plans in the comments.