The brochures are pouring in.
Through snail mail, online and via our kids’ backpacks from school.
It is mind-boggling how many summer camps there are to choose from.
We are inundated with choices. Art and theater camps, sailing, tennis, or surfing camps. There is an amusement park camp, gymnastics camp, cheerleading camp, any sport with a ball kind of camp, horse camp, Vacation Bible School, sleep away camp and a plethora of academic camps designed to give kids a leg up in math or writing. Chess camp, Lego camp, science camps and nature-based camps round out the choices.
The last month of school, all the moms are buzzing about which camp they are sending their kids to, and coordinating with other moms. A dizzying proposition – coordinating summer for multiple kids with diverse ages and interests.
In the case of two working parents, it is imperative to find camps that best suit everyone’s schedules and makes the kids happy.
But, if there is any flexibility, I would like to make the case for planning an unplanned summer.
It is not that I am anti-camp. I went to a few camps growing up. My kids have done a smattering of camps here and there. I just really look forward to the lazy days of summer and being with my kids. I love not having to be anywhere at any certain time.
The unplanned summer does not mean uncool or unadventurous. It doesn’t even mean we have no plans at all. It just means that the pressure has been removed and we leave plenty of space for spontaneity.
Last summer I bought a poster board and wrote “SUMMER” at the top. I told the kids to all write whatever it was they wanted to do over the summer. This list included things like lemonade stand, a movie that they wanted to see, washing mom’s car, picnic at the park, water balloon fight. Every time we did something on the list, we would cross it off.
A couple summers, I organized our own “camp.” Camp Free to Be You and Me in 2008 and Camp Chaos in 2009 were both based on the ideas of homespun fun and simple pleasures. I bought t-shirts for 3 bucks each and set the kids loose with the blank shirts and a bunch of colored sharpies. Never have there been more beautiful camp t-shirts.
Among the favorite camp activities were the Popsicle Taste Test, learning how to burn a hole in a piece of paper with a magnifying glass, and making forts out of cardboard boxes.
While I don’t want to have too many plans this summer, I have decided to bring back the home-based camp. This year’s name – Camp Watch the Clouds Roll By
If nothing else happens this summer, I just want to live out this one fantasy: lying on the grass with my kids and finding objects in the clouds formations. A kangaroo or banana split or a curly headed man with his mouth open, it doesn’t really matter. With how quickly the world is changing, I’m afraid my kids may grow up having missed out on one of the greatest pleasures of summer.
A warm sunny day relaxing with my kids. Savoring their childhood voices and small fingers pointing upwards towards the bulbous clouds, telling me what they see.
Watching the clouds roll by is the ultimate symbol of being in a relaxed state and enjoying the moment.
That is my plan for summer.