Now that I’ve recovered from the holidays and abandoned my New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to start worrying about summer vacation. School isn’t out for another four months; still, every parent I know is already strategizing over how to occupy their offspring between Memorial Day and Labor Day without going crazy or broke.
For weeks, websites and brochures have been soliciting early-bird sign-ups for everything from Jedi Training Camp and Super Model Boot Camp to soccer and gymnastics clinics. This being the era of the helicopter parent, options are virtually infinite. Kids as young as 7 can study inductive and deductive reasoning at Stanford University, explore forensic science at CSI Camp or learn to juggle while riding a unicycle and wearing a red clown nose at one of dozens of circus camps across the country. Fulfilling parent demand, the number of day camps has doubled over the past 20 years, according to the American Camp Association.
It’s a far cry from the summers I spent right here in the Valley, taking free art classes at Parkman Junior High and riding the rowdy, shark-finned painted bus from the Valley to the beach for 50 cents each way.
Today’s parents seek to create eclectic intineraries that are entertaining and educational, yet also relaxing. Is there not an app for this yet? Over-scheduling is frowned upon now, but so still is slacking for three months on the sofa playing Tetrus and Fruit Ninja. To be sure, day trips to museums, community service and summer reading are on everybody’s to-do, or at least, hope-to-do list. But let’s face it, these only get you so far. Like to July 1.
And if you have a high schooler, as I do, then you know that summer schedules are also supposed to include activities that can help puff up college applications. Last summer, one friend’s son helped build a school in Honduras, while another studied writing at Cambridge. There are opportunities to tutor children in Cambodia or study cell cloning at Brown University.
Ironically, summer vacation was initially created back in the day when kids were needed to work on family farms during growing and harvesting season. Now we work to pay for their summer activities.
At today’s rates, I’ve been tempted to look for courses that are mutually beneficial, like The Art of Foot Massage or Mastering General Household Repairs. My daughter did take a weeklong cooking class last summer. She and a dozen other kids learned to make five different breakfasts. Every day when I picked her up the classroom reeked of eggs.
“You should have come to the last session,” her counselor said. “It was chocolate week and smelled much better.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love summer break. It’s just too darn long. In fact, I need a vacation just thinking about it.