We are so close to summer time. The lazy days ahead, the free time, the play…it’s a freakin’ Country Time Lemonade ad, right? Not for kids of working parents. Summer time is really a race to find childcare for weeks at a time that don’t make you feel guilty as a parent for working their childhood away and don’t bore the bejezus out of your kid and make their therapist wealthy later on. Yay! Camp!

At least that’s how I feel about it. This is new for me this year. Last year, my daughter was a preschooler. We had daycare. While it was expensive, it was so SIMPLE.   There was no disruption in your daily operations. You paid your tuition, packed her up and sent her to daycare just like the rest of the year. Summer with a school-age kid is a whole different ball game.

First, everything is called “camp” no matter what it is. Girl Scout Camp. Bible Camp. Park and Rec Camp. You can be sending your kids to the town hall to watch paint dry all day and it would still be called “camp.” So you gotta watch out for sneaky descriptions. They all feature “Nature Explorations.” What the heck does that mean? Could be code for “Spending all day playing in the dirt pit we call the campground.” Are they really going to be “swimming in the lake, riding canoes & paddle boats, playing on the basketball courts, hiking, making arts & crafts, with exciting theme days and much more!” I’ll believe it when I see it.

Ready to have some summer fun! Photo: K. Stevenson

Ready to have some summer fun!
Photo: K. Stevenson

Second, no one single day camp in our area is open for the whole day. This is a logistical nightmare for the working parent. Don’t call it “Day Camp” then. Call it “Most of the Day (but you’re going to be late for work and have to leave early) Camp.”  I had to pay extra for before camp care and then figure out how to get my daughter picked up in the middle of the afternoon. At least they conveniently provide after camp care too…for another fee.  WHA?? Who are these parents who can make these 9:00-3:30 hours work? Where do they work and are they hiring?

With all the weeks I needed to sign up for, plus the before camp program, it was hard to keep track. Of course I messed it up. The one week I took off from camp for a vacation is the one week all summer that we have a commitment. No vacation that week for us! So I’m going back to the drawing board on that one. Since the camps in our area don’t use online registrations, I actually have to make phone calls to straighten this out. To actual people.  Seriously, why is this so hard?

As usual, when you’re turning your child over to any kind of care outside of school, you’re putting your trust in a few qualified adults. But mostly it’s the teenagers and college kids in charge. My husband is high school teacher. All his students gave him the low-down on what the counselors at our town camps are really like: Slackers who just want to hook up with each other and plan the night’s party. And those are the quote-unquote good kids. Oh yeah. (I remember those days.)

The list of things to bring to camp is basically a list of things to look for at lost and found every day. Water bottles, cups, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, bug spray, socks, bathing suit, towels, rain poncho. Don’t forget to label everything! She’s never going to keep that all together. And what does one wear to summer camp to be prepared for anything our Connecticut weather throws our way? I’ve seen a lot of stores pushing the oh-so-cute romper for girls. Really? Who thought this was a good fashion idea for a 6 year old? You gotta get naked to pee when you wear this thing! Ok, the kid can barely wipe herself.   Come on!

Don't even get me started on the adult version of these!  Photo: Old Navy

Don’t even get me started on the adult version of these!
Photo: Old Navy

The last thing I have to do to get Zoey ready for camp is to tell her she’s going. Yeah, I forgot to explain to her what camp is and that she’s going. Way to drop a bomb, Mom. So much for all the hype about summer and summer VACATION.  I’ll be sending her into a new environment with new kids and a new routine. I’ve got to start getting her ready. The question is how? She’s already getting slightly freaked out about leaving kindergarten to make her way to first grade. Now I’m going to flip her world upside down one more time. It builds character, right? I just have to figure out the best way to introduce her to all this slowly and gently. And then make a run for it on the first day of camp.

Gotta go Honey! Have fun! I’m late for work! Oh, to be a kid again!

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