I’ve seen several essays recently waxing nostalgic about summers in the 1970s and 80s, when mothers spent the season in a haze of Tab, tanning oil, and soap operas and children thrived from the benign neglect, roaming the neighborhood like mighty explorers, foraging snacks from neighbors’ houses and drinking out of hoses, returning home only when the streetlights came on and the fireflies were so thick they carried the kids home on clouds of glowing awesomeness.
That was not my experience. My brother and I had 7 a.m. swim practice, and volunteered to teach the younger swimmers after that, unless we were dashing off to help at one of the many camps my mom ran (and where I eventually worked as well). In the evenings we made swaps and cut stencils for t-shirts and prepared for the next camp. Summers were busy with the things we loved to do, and I learned so much during that time. I had enough free time to ride bikes and sew doll clothes and play in the creek, too.
I think, like so much else, the type of summer that’s right for your kid depends on your kid’s temperament*. Maybe your introvert craves quiet time to make the world’s tallest Lego robot or read graphic novels for hours on end. Maybe your extrovert wants to spend the summer adventuring outside with a gaggle of friends, making all the noise she wants and sitting still only for meals. Maybe your kid has an overwhelming amount of structure in his life and needs to be bored this summer and forced to explore his own interests. Or maybe your kid is already adept at finding interesting things to do but needs structure to keep her from destroying the house, injuring herself, or worse.
My kids need Structure, and Getting Out of the House.
A couple of friends have asked if we’re running Camp Pepperhouse again, our family’s at-home summer camp series. And the answer is… sort of.
To be honest, last year it didn’t work out too well. Pirate Week became Multiple Doctor Visits for a Broken Wrist Week. Under the Sea week was cancelled due to multiple children with strep. Much of last summer, like much of this summer, will be spent caring for our seriously ill parents. And again this year, our vacation time will be used on hospital visits and cleaning out my husband’s childhood home. But in some ways, having to do all these hard things makes me more determined to make the most of the summer we’ve got. Life is short.
The six-year age span and the variety of temperaments of the kids does make group outings a challenge, however.
But the kids have been asking about Camp Pepperhouse, and coming up with ideas and themes. Which maybe is the point, at this point, for them to begin to plan it. We’re going to try a mixture of camps through our local Parks & Recreation Department, where they can be with friends their own ages, and camps at home. And we always do the Summer Reading Program at our local library, too.
So we’ll dive in and see how it goes.
*And family finances/circumstances. If you’re looking for help in affording summer camp, a fellow Social Worker recently recommended Let’s Help Kids, an organization that can cover the cost of summer camp for kids K-6 in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. If you know of other resources, please share them in the comments.