I know for a lot of people, March Madness means basketballs and brackets. For me, March Madness means summer camp sign-ups and logistical planning that could rival any big-city transportation schedule. Summer camps? But it’s only March, you say. To which I respond with an eye twitch and a hysterical giggle, followed by an offer to share graph paper with you…you poor lost soul.
Ok, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but March is when I get down to business for planning summer camps for my kids. It’s when schools and rec centers start sending home flyers about this camp that will make your kid care about science, or that camp that will give your kid the soccer skills she needs to nab a college scholarship ten years from now. (Don’t start me on this.)
And, of course, there are sign-up deadlines. So, if I want my kids to go to any of these camps, I need to have my proverbial ducks in a row. Which is easy for some, but my ducks tend to wander, get lost under couches, or suffocate under piles of papers. March means I’ve got to get my summer game-face on!
When I worked full-time, I didn’t have to worry about much about juggling camps. All of the pressure was on finding THE camp. The perfect camp that would open by 7:30 and stay open until at least 5:15. The camp that offered structure and fun plans…but also enough down-time for my kid to feel like he was actually on break from school – instead of just another school cleverly disguised in beach themes and “water fun” days.
I’m a SAHM right now, which means we can save money by not having to do all day childcare for three kids. Theoretically. But if I jam-pack the summer with camps that cost $60 here and $100 there…for three kids…well, that adds up fast. There’s a delicate balance of maintaining my sanity and maintaining the checkbook. You’ve got to figure out what’s going to work for your family. I’ve erred on the side of sanity most summers, but this summer I’m looking for more of that “middle ground.” Just enough camps to keep them busy and just enough downtime as to not drain the bank account. (I may regret this come mid-July – I’ll let you know.)
A Game Plan
After you’ve gathered all the brochures and your eyes are going a little crossed at the camp costs and the amount of money you may be spending on gas…STOP. This is where you get out your mental beach bag. It’s empty, right? Now, the first thing we toss in that mental beach bag are our towels because they take up a lot of space and we don’t want to forget them…because that’s uncomfortable. Your beach towels are important! Now think of your beach towels as your summer must-do’s. For example, a family camping trip. That’s your first beach towel. Shove it in. Now mark it on the calendar. Maybe your next beach towel is an affordable basketball camp conveniently located down the street that your kid is dying to go to. Stuff it in, mark the calendar. Perhaps your third beach towel is a one-day road trip to a dinosaur museum everyone will love. Stuff it in and mark the calendar. Our mental beach bag fills up quickly, but if we put the most important stuff in first, you won’t get to August 15th and regret letting less important trips and camps get in the way of what you really wanted to do.
Now you can toss in the other trips and camps as they fit…and you have to decide for yourself when the beach bag is full. I know I’m trying to leave more space in our summer this year. Picture me with a manageable beach bag! A bag where sunscreen bottles aren’t falling out and breaking on the cement, creating Jackson Pollack knock-offs. A bag that isn’t so heavy that it’s digging into my sunburned shoulders as I scream at children to watch for cars in the parking lot because they’re going to get run over for crying out loud!