Why I'm Throwing in the Towel on Summer Camp

Growing up, summertime at my house was staying indoors, reading Sweet Valley High books for hours in my bedroom, emerging from time to time to watch television for as long as I desired, and occasionally, going to the local high school swimming pool with my older brother.

Friendships were largely placed on pause, with the exception of those created in the confines of our neighborhood. Those “playdates” (in quotes because we never called them that), were always impromptu. We’d ride our bikes to the middle of the block, call out everybody’s names and wait to see who was free to tool around the neighborhood for a few hours. The boys would shoot hoops or ride their skateboards up and down the street and the girls would draw on the sidewalks and play Chinese jump rope.

Our mothers expected us home by dark and if we were even a few minutes late, they would come out looking for us in their housecoats. The rules were simple—do what you want but don’t leave the 4-block radius.

Much has changed over the course of a few decades. Somewhere down the line, I decided that my own childhood summertime rituals were mediocre and well, not enough. In our household, summer camp was a foreign concept. Much like slumber parties, my parents considered camp as an odd pastime. They did not understand the custom of sleeping anywhere other than in one’s own safe bed. We were too young to do much without parental supervision so by default, we just hung around the house and assumed our classmates and friends were passing the time in the same manner.

When summer approaches now, my maternal approach has taken a 180-degree turn. Today, I research camps and classes that sound interesting, network with fellow moms about interesting excursions, and review brochures with an uninterested customer. Beach camp sounds fun! How about theater camp for two weeks, gymnastics for 4, and art classes until school resumes? It’s all quite ridiculous. You see, the only person interested in the “fun and exciting” schedule is the mother attempting to right the so-called “wrong” of her own childhood routine. In fact, my daughter would have been happy growing up thirty or so years ago, under my parents’ roof with no pressure to sign up for organized summer activities.

Parenting is trial and error. Since she was a toddler, I wanted – needed – her to learn new skills, try new things, spend time around others her age. Why? Why did I try so hard? As fate would have it, I have a child who prefers to stay home. When organized activities are shot down, I plan excursions to museums, parks, malls, and amusement parks! Guess what? She still prefers staying home! It’s time to throw in the towel.

It’s taken a few years to get here. I now accept that my attempts as Camp Director Mom have been futile. Whose summer is it anyway? I’m going to retire now. This June, I’m just going to chill out. There will be rules, of course (limitations on technology and television). But if she wants to stay indoors and recuperate, she’s entitled.

School, even for an eight-year-old, can zap your energy by spring. She works hard during the school year with her academics, piano lessons, and other responsibilities. Why not give the kid a break?

It’s time for a good ol’ fashioned ‘80s summer.

How did you spend your summers as a child? How do your kids spend theirs now? Share your thoughts with us!

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Tags : confessions   childhood memories   camp   

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