The City Magazine Since 1975

Summer Breaking Point

Summer Breaking Point
July 2011
One working mom’s adventures as a kiddie concierge

Summer vacation: those two words once evoked warm and fuzzy memories of endless days of reading, swimming, and riding my Schwinn with the yellow banana seat and plastic streamers dangling from the handlebars. Fast-forward 30 years to this working mom’s summers with a four- and six-year-old in tow, and warm and fuzzy is more like hot and harried. As it turns out, a master planner is needed to execute that easy-going fun in the sun. And these days, that’s me!

So I decide to embrace the kiddie concierge role and sit down with the local camp guides. That’s when I realize I’ll need to find a second job to pay for it all. Seriously, $1,600 a month for just 15 hours per week? Add in my driving time, and I’m down to working two hours a day, which wouldn’t bother me one bit except for that money issue.

As I’m sifting through the piles of camp brochures galore—and thinking, “Aren’t they old enough to get jobs yet?”—I tune into the background refrain: “But, Mommy, I really want to take cheerleading! And what about violin and gymnastics? And I have to go to art class, because I’m an artist.” And the four-year-old chimes in: “Me too, Mommy, me too!”

That’s when the idea strikes: Perhaps I should open my own summer camp. It seems like a lucrative business, even if loss of sanity and intelligible conversation are your main perks. Thank goodness the town recreation center offerings distract me from pursuing this line of thinking. I spot an all-in-one music/theater/art class, essentially killing several birds with one inexpensive stone. Now, that takes care of 30 hours. What about the rest?

In a panic, I call my mother. She didn’t work out of the home when we were growing up, and neither do I—I work in it! This provides a daily challenge, primarily my proximity to the refrigerator. But, during the summer, add in proximity to children who believe their mother is the only person who can fill juice cups, wipe bottoms, and answer questions like, “Do you think we can go to Disney World this year?” and I’ve got a real problem on my hands. That one question could take hours to answer when you consider the ensuing conversation:  
“Is Dora in Disney World?” “No, Dora is Nick Jr., dummy.” “Don’t call your brother a dummy.” “Well, then if we can’t go to Disney right now, can we go swimming? Where is my bathing suit—you said you washed it!” And on and on.

Mom reminded me that I watched a fair amount of television during the summers; after all it was the ’70s—we didn’t wear seat belts either and got candy cigarettes as a treat. No, even if I wanted to use the TV as a baby-sitter, my six-year-old wouldn’t sit quietly for more than seven uninterrupted minutes, even for Little Einsteins.

My solution? Hire a nanny who is brave enough to take them on an “adventure”—i.e. anything that keeps them out of the house and is free. Of course, I don’t want my kids’ warm and fuzzy memories to feature camp counselors and nannies alone. So we’ll continue our Friday family movie nights, have a few beach picnics, shop at the farmers market, go berry picking, swim a lot, and rock on the porch with special kid punch for them and wine for us. And I will hope that some of those times stick in the memory vaults of their adult brains.

Maybe I should add “make summer 2011 scrapbook” to the master planning list so that I have proof of our family fun. But not before I dig up that old Schwinn and go for a nice long ride.