I’m on record about loving summer. I like the heat, I like the humidity, I like not having to brace myself against the cold when I walk out the door. But with regard to being a parent in the summer, this one has been an eye opener.
In years past, we’ve sailed blithely from May into June without a break in the schedule or the routine. John was in daycare, which doesn’t stop for summer, so we could take a few long weekends here and there or visit family from time to time, but there was really not an enormous difference. Enter kindergarten, and everything has changed. Summer — a real summer — is great for kids, but I’ve learned it’s a big, fat hassle for grown ups.
For those of you who haven’t done it yet, be warned:
>>Knitting together a summer of camps, family visits, travel and other adventure is basically like having a second job. I spent about six weeks last winter trying to figure it all out. Lots of fun camps are half day, so we need a babysitter in the afternoon. We travel for family vacations when kids are all free, but that means juggling three different school systems and everyone else’s summer camps, too. You can’t really guess when school is even going to be out, because of snow. By May I had a color coded calendar with every week planned out, plane tickets purchased, camp space reserved, and thought I was ready, but there have continued to be mornings or afternoon that I didn’t account for. And I only have one kid! As with everything, I don’t know how the rest of you do it.
>>The days need to be filled. I have a feeling that this is true for non-working parents as well. Kids at home all day seem to be at loose ends and not always in a good way. I remember childhood summers as being idyllic. Lots of free time. Nothing on the schedule. Long afternoons at the pool. I realize now that my poor mother was probably pulling her hair out trying to keep us busy and fielding “What should we dooooooo???” questions all day long.
>>Whole day camps are fun, but EXHAUSTING. Nonstop fun from morning to night makes for a great day, but a sketchy evening, at least at our house. I have learned that after camp is not the right time to try new foods every night for dinner, stay up late, or otherwise rock the boat. My little guy is on a very short fuse after one of these days.
>>On the other hand, half day camps make it hard to get any work done. Soccer camp or art camp seem like a lovely way to spend a morning, and I’ve had babysitters in the afternoon, but there’s still a big switch in the middle of the day, where someone has to be picked up, given lunch, sorted out for the afternoon. It’s distracting – not the most conducive to a productive day at work.
>>It gets harder and harder to find activities as the summer goes on. At the beginning of the summer, there seemed to be lots to do and plenty of people around ready to help out. Now we’re in this dead zone where many teachers are going back to work, high school babysitters are starting sports seasons, and all the camps inexplicably close two weeks before school starts. Note to enterprising teenagers: make up your own camp and schedule it right now. Parents will probably pay you any amount of money to help get through this last bit.
>>All the fun of summer adds up. If a day at camp is tiring, three weeks of camp plus two vacations plus one superfun babysitter who walks all over town are cumulatively VERY tiring. John’s usually a pretty happy kid, and I think he’s had a great summer, but he also likes routine, and doing different things every week is taking its toll. He’s got the questionable behavior to prove it. We’ve had to cut a few things short this month. Next year, I’ll fit them into June before things get to be too much.
>>For my own mental health: big chunks of time out of the office are way, way more relaxing than a series of long weekends. I’ve been hoarding days off all year to take a couple of weeks off and it was so worth it. But having a child and being on vacation isn’t exactly like being on vacation. There’s still the child to be taken care of. I appreciated the Olympics this year — I let John watch more t.v. with his cousins than I usually would with no guilt.
I never, never wish summer shorter. Even with the extra crazy this year, I’ll hang onto the warm days for as long as I possibly can. But next year, I’ll be a little bit more prepared.