It was January when I got a text from my friend. “Have you decided on summer camps for your kids yet?” As I looked around at the few Christmas decorations that I had forgotten and the pile of boots on the floor, my answer was simply, “No.”
She went on to say that she was doing research and had heard about some new options, and that she thought things would fill up quickly, so I should look into it soon. (This friend is much more organized than I am, as you might imagine.)
Because I hate planning and love procrastinating, I completely ignored her summer camp warnings and lo and behold, the snow stopped falling and warmer weather reminded me that I was way behind schedule when it came to choosing camp options for my kids.
I’m pretty sure that if my kids have any chance of being successful at anything in life, they have to attend the appropriate summer camp. Conversely, they each might have hidden talents that we have yet to discover because we have not sent them to the correct camp experience. Couple all of that pressure with the fact that we have missed the early sign-up perks, dates conflicting, and the enormous sum of money it costs to gain all of these important skills that will apparently make or break their childhood and probably any chance of success as an adult, and it’s made me realize one simple thing: parenting these days ain’t fair.
I never went to summer camp. I played outside in my yard with my neighborhood friends every single day. We recklessly rode bikes and played unorganized games without equipment. We didn’t have planned activities and if someone wanted to make a fort, no mother sat scrolling through Pinterest trying to find an upcyled project with wooden pallets and non-toxic adhesives. We found scrap lumber and someone swiped some nails and a hammer from a garage and we went to town.
There were no experts in any fields teaching us things. Mostly it was our parents teaching us life skills like how to fix stuff we broke or mow the lawn, grow a garden, can vegetables, or play the guitar. We didn’t always want to learn, but we were forced to be there because we didn’t really have anything else to do.
My childhood summers were filled with the beautiful lack of anything to do. Besides the occasional chore or piano practice, the days were mine. I learned to love to create things, found the time to create a world in our backyard wilderness, and spent time with my parents. I specifically remember one day coming in from playing outside and I sat on my bed and read an entire book, cover to cover. Life was really good.
And now I sit and fret what our summer holds, nearly two months away. Wondering if I’m ruining the future of my children by not sending them to the camp of their destiny, feeling a little envious of my mother.
Originally written 4.17.16