The summers of childhood are some of the best you’ll ever have. Remember how awesome they were? You looked forward to them all school year, counted down the days, and when the bell finally rang on that last day of school, it happened: freedom.
For some, summer meant running wild around the neighbourhood with a pack of kids on bikes (the ‘80s and ‘90s were a grand time, mostly due to a complete lack of parental supervision). For others, summer meant visiting grandparents out of town, taking trips as a family or finding new ways to torture the babysitter. My siblings and I used to spend a lot of time at the family cottage with our grandparents, but when in the city, we participated in city-organized day camps.
(We also went to a church-run sleepaway camp for two weeks every summer, which failed to teach us much of anything religious but did introduce me to The Notorious B.I.G. via contraband cassette tape. I do NOT think this was the goal, but as a side note, I still know every word to Hypnotize.)
Now that I’m a parent, I’m faced with every working mom (and dad’s) annual dilemma: what am I going to do with my kids for EIGHT LONG WEEKS of school break? They may be on vacation, but I’ve got a full-time job that doesn’t let out for the summer. My husband also works full-time, as do both of my parents. There is no magical Mary Poppins hidden in my attic, and subsequently, I have to find people to safely and happily care for my children during the day.
At first, this notion stressed me out in a big way. I worked part-time for years when my kids were toddlers, and only returned to full-time hours when my youngest started JK last year. We’ve had part-time babysitters for a long time, but I’ve never needed full-time care until now. Between the lack of knowledge about their days, the sad reality of missing out on our usual summer fun, the mom guilt and the absolute hemorrhage of money needed to make this all happen, I was freaking out a bit.
But then, as I got farther and farther into my intensive millennial-mom research of summer camp options, I realized something: it was going to be expensive and I was going to miss my kids, but they were going to have the time of their lives. Summer camp sounds AWESOME. I want to go!!! Alas, I’m about two decades past the cut-off age.
I’ve signed my children up for art camp, outdoor adventure camp, a nature program, science camp and sports activities (all day programs). They’ll have a week of vacation with us in July and another in August, plus weekends at the cottage, and the odd day spent with family when the stars align. They’ll be swimming, climbing, making crafts, building forts and developing new friendships. They’ll come home covered in dirt and paint and melted popsicles, telling tales of their adventures. Meanwhile, I’ll be at a desk, trying to catch a glimpse of sunshine from the window. I’m jealous, honestly. My kids’ lives are amazing.
It’s hard for me to give up control of my kids’ daily lives - not knowing if they’re behaving themselves, if they’re happy, if they’ve fallen and scraped a knee. I’ve always let them do their own thing, but I’ve also been there to supervise and guide their way. School was a hard transition, and camp seems even scarier in the sense that it involves a variety of locations, new faces, and occasionally bus travel. For a mom who stayed at home part-time for over five years and panics over simple field trips, camp is terrifying. The idea of my kids getting lost or hurt puts my chest into a vice grip and my stomach into knots. But that’s the thing – it’s terrifying for ME. For my children, it’s going to be an incredible series of adventures that lead for lasting memories. They are literally counting down the days, they’re so excited, and I’m happy for them.
Like my childhood summers were spent buying convenience store popsicles and riding bikes aimlessly around the neighbourhood, my kids will remember days filled with science experiments, nature walks and art projects. They’ll have a blast, and I’ll make sure we have plenty of family time in the evenings and on weekends. I always thought of the summer as “our time” – berry picking, visits to local farms, lazy days at the park – but now, it’s their time. I have to let them create their own memories alongside the ones I make with them. My heart is pulling for them to stay small and never leave my arms (or at least my sight), but truly, camp will be the time of their lives.