I know there are people out there pining to send their kids to camp. There are working parents, and just because school lets out for the summer, the work does not stop. There are family issues, kids need to be separated from each other, there are specialty camps where a skill can be honed, there are overnight camps where kids can experience a sense of adventure and independence which they cannot get at home. At home it is illegal to walk anywhere alone, lest a bogeyman will kidnap you...
When I signed my kids up for camp this year, I thought it was a great idea. They had one week of camp last year and loved it: they swam, played games, learned, did art projects. 7 yo repeatedly asked me (in October) whether I am sending him to camp this year. I knew that I will have a baby, and I thought that 4 weeks of camp will be nice, enough of a time to give me a break and enough of a time for kids to play. It was supposed to be time to recharge the batteries, reset our learning clocks and try our hand at different things. Besides, the kids have been begging for me to take them swimming and I am not adventurous enough to take all four of them by myself.
As the camp time drew nearer, I though more and more about how is it going to be. My friend asked me to go peach picking. I love the idea, but I cannot bring my kids along, since they are in camp, and in our neck of the woods, peach picking is off-limits on Sundays. Our homeschool coop is organizing a field trip, but we will pass since the kids are in camp. 7 yo asked for swimming lessons, but I will not look into it because there is no time to do it. 9 yo will not start on mishnayot till the camp lets out. The drumming lessons will not resume till we are done. What about our Chumash? When should I fit it in? In the morning before camp starts? After dinner? Let it slide for four weeks? We had such a good momentum going, and now it is suspended due to camp.
What about me? Now I have daily lunches to pack instead of opening a fridge and just getting whatever is there. Most people who say lunches are not a big deal are probably not the ones who are packing them (and getting half of the food back, in mushed condition). I have to wake up baby and fit him into carpool schedule. When I signed the kids up, both camps were supposed to be at the same place, with the same times. I thought, brilliant! Then, last week, they changed the location for boys' camp, but the carpool is still at the same time as girls' camp. I complained a bit on Facebook and found another parent with whom to trade off carpool. Today, I found out that the boys' camp is going to a baseball game tomorrow and they will be dismissed whenever they get back. The other kid in carpool is still getting dismissed at a regular time, so I have to pick him up, switch him with my daughter who is being picked up by another parent, and then call in to find out when the boys are getting in. This is not the headache that I signed up for.
Late last night, I got the first e-mail from the girls' camp. It cheerfully informed me that I should send in tomorrow a mat for rest. I am sure that people who send their kids to daycare have these mats, but we do not own one. When we are tired we do not rest on mats, but in beds. Besides, 3 yo gave up naps for the most part. If she is tired, she will go lay down and nap, but we do not have rest time. By the reactions from other parents I surmised that I should have taken this very seriously. I was given suggestions where to buy a mat, and how I can solve this issue with other objects. Apparently, I was violating some taboo by not taking this whole mat thing to heart. What, she will fail camp if she does not have a standard-issue mat? Moreover, I realized that I will be paying camp to try to nap a child who might not want to nap in the first place.
This is where it hit me: this fun summer camp is really an institution. I have become too used to doing my own thing, thinking non-traditionally, avoiding top-down approach. I am chafing at this structure imposed upon us. There is no spontaneity and a lot of playing by the rules. Moreover, the rules change, and I am stuck following them.
Months ago, I wrote how the way that I was homeschooling was unsustainable. It required too much from me, and was too rigid for the kids. Now, I think, we finally reached a level of sustainability. The house is almost eerily quiet, and I miss my kiddos. I do not need this long break from them.
There are plenty of things I can be doing with new-found free time: take walks, read, clean up, run errands, get some new clothes, have a coherent thought. But I think I am at the point where I can do all these things with them in the house, or that they are not so important that I need to send my kids out to get them done. To be fully honest, ask me when the four weeks are over and they are all home, but for now, I wish that sending them to camp was less of a headache-inducing activity.