Last week, my son asked me if the summer was half over. We talked about all the different things he had done over the many weeks since second grade ended, and all that was planned during the five full weeks until third grade begins. He was disappointed to realize that his vacation is on the downslide. He could not hear my internal cheering, thrilled that the summer chaos, while still in full swing, is approaching its conclusion.
Here’s the thing: the kids are having the summer of their lives. But wow, is it wrecking the adults.
My in-laws have a house in southern Maine, so we are fortunate to have a wonderful go-to vacation spot. It’s a magical coastal town, a place that my husband and I love, where we got engaged and later married, a place that our children cherish as much as we do.
Two summers ago, we noticed a day camp at one of the beaches. Last summer, the kids attended the camp for a week while my husband and I worked remotely from the house. It was the first time my son had been outside his comfort zone for as long as I could remember. He still looked shell shocked when we picked him up that first day, when we learned that he barely said more than a few words. But by midday of his second day, his shell had shattered and he was in the throes of the best time of his young life. He begged to go back to camp the week that we had planned for vacation in August.
After that first week ended, we returned home and the children went to the summer program at their daycare. While that program had been a lot of fun for my son the year before, it paled in comparison to the endless beach, playground, kayaking, basketball, ocean, capture the flag, cove walks, golf, four square and all the other wonderful experiences in that first week of camp. It was blindingly clear that Summer 2016 needed to be filled with great opportunities, which meant we needed to start figuring out the summer (and start paying for it) as early as February.
One of the many plights for this family where two parents work full time is that there is no time for lazy summer days. Sure, we scheduled a vacation week for the week after school ended (when there were few camp opportunities), but every other week needs to be filled from morning to late afternoon, with little room for last minute playdates or beach days or calm. The kids are tired.
The timing of these camps does not perfectly align with our workdays, so often, one of us is heading to work a bit later or leaving early to accommodate the drop off and pickup times, making up the missed work wherever we can, which is often when our family is still asleep. The adults are tired.
As part of our summer planning, we wanted to expand on the roaring success of the beach camp in Maine. Our local camps over the other weeks had two week sessions, so it seemed to make sense to schedule two consecutive weeks in Maine. Then, my son expressed great interest in a one-week town camp, leaving one unscheduled week where we still needed care. We figured we would do that as a third week in Maine, to the children’s delight. However, the three weeks in Maine fell over a four week period, which is just too long to be away from the office. Also, my husband took a different position at his company earlier this year and we did not recognize how much less flexible his job would be in some ways, making even a week of working remotely full-time unworkable. The best laid plans left us really stressed out.
This is a partnership and we are working through it. I believe we have figured out the best way to get through this, incorporating some vacation time with some tag team parenting, where one of us heads home for a few days at a time. Still, as hard as all of this juggling is, my children continue to have magical days with new best friends whose names they cannot seem to recall. My son tells stories of getting pinched by the crabs he has caught, the sand structure he built that was taller than him, his new ability to dive off the diving board. My 5 year old daughter raves about her new 11 year old friend, was cast as one of Ariel’s sisters in drama and swims just a bit deeper. With each new experience, I watch them gain confidence and independence.
A few more weeks of chaos seems a small price to pay for all they are gaining. But oh, I am ready for September.