Children’s Summer Camp Must-Haves for Working Parents
It is 30 degrees outside. We went ice skating and sledding this weekend. I walked my daughter through snowbanks to school today. But the one thing that is occupying that part of my brain that just can’t let go of stuff? Summer camp.
I have been forewarned and warned and warned again that if I don’t have this figured out by the end of January, I will be out of luck – everything will be booked up. I can’t afford to be out of luck. Well, given the price of summer camp, I’m not sure I can afford to be “in luck” either. But both my husband and I work, and with my daughter now in Kindergarten, that year-round school/care thing is out the window. We have no grandparents living on a bucolic farm waiting to care for our daughter and teach her all those summer lessons like how to swim in a weedy pond and catch butterflies and enjoy the simple goodness of a cherry Popsicle. No. For us, our only real options are a few summer camps run by local private schools with cushy facilities. It’s not quite the experience I envisioned for my daughter’s summer, but I realized that as a working mom, I had to reconcile myself to a few harsh realities. The new requirements of summer camp are as such.
What Working Parents Need in a Children’s Summer Camp
1. The summer camp must be convenient to work and/or home. There’s no way we can add a commute to the equation.
2. There must be an extended day option until 5:30 p.m. at the absolute earliest. No summer hours at work last time I checked.
3. The summer camp must start by 8:30 a.m. or have an extended morning option. Ditto the reason above.
4. The summer camp must run for a minimum of eight consecutive weeks. My brain can’t handle juggling a series of one- or two-week programs patched together, and I don’t think my daughter could handle the child care transitions.
5. There must be serious swim instruction in addition to free swim. Water safety for kids has always been critical to me that my kids become strong swimmers as young as possible, and it’s hard to make that happen off-season.
All these requirements are things that rule out an awful lot of cool summer options. And that’s kind of depressing. They are also the things that separate the kids of two-working-parent families from those that have a stay-at-home mom or dad. I’ve been asking around the Kindergarten circuit, and all the working moms are in the same boat, feeling the same stress and considering the same options I am. We are all feeling pressured in this seemingly unnatural state of affairs, forced to make decisions about camp – which costs several thousands of dollars, which must be paid in full with no refunds months before camp starts – when there are two feet of snow on the ground and the summer sunshine seems such a long way off.
I hope I can choose the right summer camp that gives my daughter a love of the outdoors, fun ways to exercise, and the opportunity to appreciate the fine arts of finding frogs in mud pits, making gimp lanyards, navigating the ropes course and developing friendships in equal measure. And I hope it’s enhanced and not compromised by what I need to get out of it as well.