Camped Out

On the lookout for fun

On the lookout for fun

Published in baystateparent Magazine

Spring has barely sprung, and already the brochures have begun piling up in my mailbox:
baseball summer camp, Cub Scout camp, phonics camp, soccer camp, camp for the gifted, camp for the musically inclined, camp for kids who don’t like camp… and the list goes on and on. Even my son’s preschool offers a summer program, for tots with unproductive time on their chubby little hands.

Sure to follow on the heels of the glossy mailings will be the phone calls from my
neighbors. “What are you planning to do with your kids this summer?” they’ll ask. “Swim lessons? Tennis? Science camp?” Everyone wants to know where their kid’s friends will be going, so their little darlings won’t be left in the summer dust.
Wait a minute… whatever happened to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer?

Call me old fashioned, but I look forward to summer as a time for my kids and I to kick back, relax, and have some plain, ‘ole, unscheduled fun. Hey, isn’t that what summer’s all about? Sleeping in late, having a friend over to play, running through the backyard sprinkler, throwing a baseball, eating hot dogs and Popsicles on the back porch, and playing hide and seek after dinner until it’s too dark to find anybody?

That’s what my summers were like when I was growing up, and I have this crazy, sentimental notion that that’s the way it can be for my kids, too. We have the perfect backyard, and my kids have an overabundance of enthusiasm and imagination. The only thing missing is… well, the neighbor kids. They’re all off to camp.

Now, I understand that camp can be a great thing. In fact, my kids usually participate in at least one or two week’s worth of program-related activities each summer. And for families with two working parents, camps are godsend. Hardly any full-time profession lends itself to taking off for the summer to be with the kids. But many of the moms in my neighborhood are not working full-time; rather, they feel compelled to schedule their kids’ summer months at the same frenetic pace as during the school year. I’m sure their motives are good: keep little Joanna challenged and engaged; enrich her summers with sports and social opportunities. But I have to wonder if some parents do it out of fear that their kids might miss out, be the only ones at home, or, God forbid, become bored over the summer.

I’ve thought about starting a support group for these parents: Activities Anonymous. I’m convinced that overscheduling kids has become compulsive habit in our culture; something that has good intent at the root, but has spun out of control. It can be conquered, though, through the support of like-minded activities addicts who are ready to admit their powerlessness over frenetic activity.

In the meantime, I figure that if I can’t beat the system, I’ll join it. That’s why, rather than implore my neighbor friends to please keep their children home so my kids have someone to play with, I’ll use a camp-friendly tactic. Watch your mailboxes in the next few weeks for information on “Camp Reske”, premiering this summer in our back yard. Our daily schedule will consist of plenty of ever-popular activities like hopscotch, bike riding, Super Soaker water fights, trips to the ice cream stand, tire swinging, and even campouts with a real campfire and roasted marshmallows.

But you’d better sign up early… at the cost of a million smiles per child, Camp Reske is sure to fill up fast.

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