Third Strike at Summer Camp

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Categories Activities, Childcare, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Time Management, WorkingTags , , ,

summercamp“Specialty” summer camp logistics has been a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I told you about the fiasco of our first couple of days this morning. Today was the final straw.

When I went to drop the kids off, I signed them into the full-day program and made sure that the counselors at drop off knew that my daughters needed to get to their cheer and soccer camps at 8:00. At that point, I was informed that this wasn’t an option on field trip days. Since the full-day campers and counselors would be offsite on their field trip, there would be no one available to take care of the children when the specialty camps let out. I could elect either to have the kids go on the field trip and skip cheer and soccer or I could find alternate care for the afternoon.

I wasn’t told when I signed the kids up for camp that specialty camps were essentially going to be incompatible with a work schedule. I specifically told the guy at registration that I was a single working mom, so full-day was a non-negotiable requirement. I’m sure that plenty of kids and parents elect to lose a day specialty camp over time at work, but poor J had already missed a day of cheer-leading on Monday. I wasn’t going to disappoint her again. Instead, I tried to do as much work as I could from my house with the kids there after I picked them up at 1:00 (having been late to work all week thanks to the search for answers at the Y). I was able to get some good focused time in immediately after they got home while they read, but by 4:00, they needed me to focus on them. I’m just so grateful that I have an employer who flexes to the unpredictable needs of two-career and single parents.

Even the coaches at the specialty camps were completely unaware of the conflict between full-day field trips and part-day specialty camps. I can’t help wondering how many coaches have had to stay late, over the years, on discovering that there was no one there to take responsibility for a subset of their kids when they were done with camp for the day.

I must say, in defense of the full-day program, that Sophia, the coordinator, called me as I was pulling out of the full-day parking lot to let me know about the field trip/afternoon care conflict. She apologized for not having mentioned it when we spoke yesterday. I’m embarrassed to say that I landed all my frustrations on her. She’s been nothing but helpful, and I called her later in the day to apologize for venting the way I had.

My daughters and I chatted in the car until shortly before 8:00, when I delivered M and J to their respective coaches. I then stalked YMCA staff until I located supervisors who were willing to talk to me. Specialty camp management was downright useless (except for Casey, who I mentioned yesterday).

The full-day management seemed to take my concerns seriously. They had obviously already discussed my frustrations. They listened to my concerns and recommendations for improvement. They promised to look into both systemic changes that they could implement and why I hadn’t received their weekly emails that outline what we can expect from camp. (There were emails!? This was the first I’d heard of them!)

I made sure that they knew that I had no complaints about the care my children were receiving, and that I’d had nothing but positive interactions with full-day staff. I was just flummoxed by the lack of communication, and the general not-my-problem attitude of the specialty camp administration. I reminded the full-day management that, while they probably get into the swing of things over the course of the summer, there are probably going to be new parents every week for whom the whole process is new and unknown. One of managers let slip that the specialty program doesn’t even inform them of which of the full-day children are enrolled in specialty camps in any given week; I think there’s clearly some federated organization pain going on, which is something I deal with–and try to minimize–at my own workplace.

I had originally thought we could push through the remaining specialty camps that M and J had selected and signed up for this summer, but I think it’ll be better for my blood pressure and the resulting home climate for us to call it quits. The emotional eating alone may be taking years off my life. The friend whose daughter is in J’s cheer camp and my daughters’ Girl Scout troop offered to pick my girls up early on field trip days so I don’t have to miss more work. I’m incredibly grateful for the offer, but she just shouldn’t have to make it.

I think it’s time to stick with the simplicity of the tried and true. Trying to make specialty camps and full-day care work together is like fitting a round peg in a square hole. I’ll leave those special programs to parents who don’t have to balance childcare with a work schedule during the summer. We’ll just stick with the full-day program at an elementary school location. These soccer, cheer, cooking and tumbling camps will have to be another set of things that J and M don’t get to experience because Mommy has a job.

On the upside, both M and J had a grand day. At one point, J’s cheer class happened to go outside to practice, ending up at the same field where M was working on soccer drills. The girls had an emotional reunion, and the coaches agreed to let M skip out of soccer early to visit J’s cheer camp for the week’s performance of the routine they’ve been working on. J, being the lightest kid in cheer camp, gets to be a “flyer,” the girl at the top of the pyramid. She’s giddy about M getting to watch her. I think that the counselors’ sensitivity to J and M’s relationship with each other and their willingness to think outside the box to nurture it shows that they don’t subscribe in the least to the uncaring culture of their management.

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Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

4 thoughts on “Third Strike at Summer Camp”

  1. I struggle with this too. I want my kids to get all the experiences that children with stay at home moms get while working. For us a nanny historically made it possible but I’m in unchartered territory right now trying to find a parttime nanny/housekeeper.

  2. Sadia – I’m sorry you had to go through all this! clearly, they need to beef up their communication. This is certain not the hassle you need!

    I do have to address your comment about M and J missing out on things because “Mommy has a job” – I think you are subjecting yourself to a bit of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses and the grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side. If you could wave a wand and have the same household income but be a SAHM parent, then yes, you could drive your girls to these different things (if you chose to – you might not want to be their personal chauffeur!). But remember that not all families with a stay at home parent have the funds to do so many activities. I grew up with a SAHM by choice (when we were little) and then as an older kid/teen, my father was often home because he was unemployed. So, yes – there may have been a parent there to shuttle us around but never once did I go to camp in the summer. Town soccer/basketball/softball was it between the 4 of us. And even then, there was a lot walking and carpooling with other families.

    Of course, there are stay at home parent families that have buckets of money and can afford (money- and time-wise) all these activities. But you don’t do yourself or your girls any favors by comparing yourself to them or trying to keep up with them. Some people have private jets and ponies – good for them. When you get right down to it, your girls are incredibly lucky. Don’t let misconceptions or envy take that away from you.

    1. Nicole, thanks so much for the dose of perspective. I am daily grateful that, despite losing my ex’s financial contribution to the family as a result of our divorce, I am still able to provide for my children the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. I made the decision to make my own way in the world, financially, culturally and geographically, instead of living the servant-filled lifestyle I could have chosen had I moved back to Bangladesh, where I grew up, after college. I do believe that I’m able to be a better mom because I work outside the home, and I appreciate the reminder that the grass is pretty green where I am.

      1. exactly – you are the best mom you can be as a working mom – this is your truth. No need to worry about their “experiences” – they most important thing is that they get to experience you as your best self.

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