Not so long ago, my need to schedule summers for my little people seemed to hang over my head as a form of self-imposed torture. I strove to fill every waking hour of their summer break with an enriching activity, the majority of which occurred at day camps that must be chosen and registered for months before the air turns warm.
Overnight camp commitment is even more stringent. Registration comes when the school year is still new, and large deposits are required if you are successful in your midnight raid (you know the ones, the elite camps that begin accepting applications at 12:01 a.m., and you and hundreds of other parents are vying to spend large sums on the few precious spaces available, particularly the most coveted June sessions). I secretly admire this sneaky tactic. Could there be a transition any more rewarding than one where kids move from school to camp? The wrangled gift of two weeks of solace, particularly after the hell of May, could very well be a small price to pay, a lovely transition before your children take over your house.
This summer, though, is not the one where I will take a bite of the lovely forbidden fruit of camp. No, I’ve decided against taking that leap and not just because it will save a truckload of money or, in my case, save me from what is potentially worthwhile credit card debt. I am choosing not to buy into the choreographed agenda of camps run by innocent organizations such as the YMCA. Despite this innocuous acronym, the YMCA actually represents the Ritz-Carlton of camps.
Yes, two weeks of fun-filled days from the YMCA will cost you $2,589, and speaking from experience, you will spend at least a couple hundred on proper bedding and overpriced Under Armor paraphernalia with the proper logo of said camp. Yes, I admit I have spent the last few summers hauling my sons to various locations, some of which required airline tickets, and in the end, they opted not to return and I could now be driving a golf cart around town. Hmmm.
We are not entirely without commitment, though, and will not languish on couches glued to iPads. No, we will spend our days at the beach and, perhaps with our newfound free time, diligently keep journals and head to the library when we tire of the sun and salt and sea. We will be more adventurous on our own time, and with no place to be, we can explore the small towns nearby and local museums.
My longing to be completely lazy is not the life I have chosen for myself this summer break, but will freedom with four children seem calmer? We will embrace our flexibility and make the choices that support each family member’s needs as they arise. I will indulge my desire for time with my four children, exploring local habitats, meeting friends, sailing and Bingo, swimming and lounging in tidal pools. Perhaps a lack of plans is just what the doctor ordered for all of us.
We have 77 days of respite from school and our plan of no plans will hopefully be a good one. Certainly with the money saved, we have options for taking a mountain trip or even getting a golf cart, but we will wait and see. After one week of the chaos that travels with two wrestling sons, one feisty daughter, and a special needs toddler, I may very well be reminded that this is why camps exist, but I’m going to try to embrace the freedom that I have seemed to ignore each summer. Perhaps this will be the one where long days filled with adventure can’t be counted on one hand, so many that they flow together as one memory—a lovely summer. It’s a chance worth taking, I hope.