It’s camp time!
We have the best day camp known to man. I drop Declan off at 9AM, then enjoy peace until 5PM. The whole thing costs $80 for the entire summer. That’s free in child care terms. The staff’s amazing. Everyone smiles–especially me.
Last summer, Declan cried. I thought it was because I was leaving. That wasn’t it. He cried because camp drop off was at school. What kid wants to go to school all summer?
I wanted to say it was math camp, and didn’t he want to be a STEM champion like the kids in Finland and China? He was already crying and that would’ve been mean, so I promised him a whole day of recess. Camp delivered.
This year other people’s kids cried. Not Declan.
“Camp has as much candy as I want,” he said.
The parenting paradox–do I want freedom and inner peace or to be a good mom?
I have good-parent friends who send their kids to hard-core camps. Sleepaway adventurer camps. Day camps with astrophysics, Mandarin, computers. Camps guaranteed to get kindergarteners perfect scores on their LSATs.
This camp is none of those things. It’s unlimited candy, pig piling, and screaming like extras in a zombie apocalypse movie. Fun, pure and simple.
Camp rules? There is only one camp rule–come home alive. I’m told they haven’t misplaced a kid yet.
I get inner peace. He gets candy?
Let me sign the waiver.
I’m making Declan’s lunch. I pack healthy things. It curbs my guilt.
“I don’t need a sandwich, Mom. Pack extra cookies.” I refuse.
“The cookie isn’t for me, it’s for my friend.” Lies! I put in the sandwich and toss in the extra cookie for his “friend.”
I tell him to eat the sandwich. He won’t but it’s what a good mom would say. I remind him there aren’t any lunch ladies to bail him out at camp if he gets hungry. Lunch ladies are the people Declan scams when he doesn’t like the lunch I’ve packed for school. He tells them I didn’t pack a lunch.
“I don’t need lunch ladies during camp,” he says, “I just buy candy.”
I point to the sandwich. It stays.
“Just bread. No peanut butter.” His friend’s allergic. School doesn’t allow peanut butter, only USDA-sanctioned whole-wheat Pop Tarts and all the sugary cereal kids can eat. Camp allows everything, but Declan wants to protect his friend from killer legumes.
“Do you want to take a day off from camp and hang out with me?” I ask. He’s growing up fast. My other good-parent friends have chalkboards full of educational, quality-time summer activities they do with their kids.
“No. Camp’s better.” I’m being relegated to second-string, sent down to the minors, replaced on the mound.
I give him a couple bucks, sunscreen, lunch, and we’re out the door.
Declan complains about his budget like a member of Congress.
“Mom, you didn’t give me enough money. Yesterday, I ran out!”
“Spend less.” It’s what I’d tell Congress. I offer him the chance to earn more money by doing chores. Senators should do the same.
“If you want to blow $8M on pork barrel projects, you’re going to have to take out the recycling…” Nope. Declan, like Congress, knows how to get money for free.
“I don’t have to work. That’s your job,” he says. He runs back in the house to hunt for change on the washing machine, then asks everyone not sleeping for cash. He gets $1.50 more. He’s got his candy money and the skills to fundraise for his first company.
We’re off to camp.
The 21st century child lives in a bubble. He must behave politely, speak quietly, avoid allergens, and be supervised at all times. He showers in hand sanitizer. He’s a perfect specimen of germ-free, politically correct, hands-to-yourself–a statue with a pulse bored to tears by worksheets ten months out of the year for thirteen years.
Camp fixes this. It reminds me of when I was Declan’s age–walking to the bus stop, waiting there with the other kids, no parents, running around the neighborhood after school scraping up sun-baked roadkill off the street giving it a proper burial. We probably put our fingers in our mouths, too.
“Go play, be back before dinner,” they’d say. We’d give our parents peace, roaming from the pond to the graveyard to the sand dunes having fun until the street lights flickered on.
Somehow it all worked out nicely and I lived.
I think Declan will live, too.
This summer, I will not only live, I may even achieve enlightenment.