No More Pencils, No More Books

In hushed tones at play dates and playgrounds across America, the same conversation is taking place over and over again:

MOM 1: What are you going to do?

MOM 2: I have no idea.  What about you? 

MOM 1:  I don’t know but I’ve got to come up with a plan soon.  How are we going to survive it?

MOM 2: I’m scared.

MOM 1: Me too.

(Both Moms stare pensively into space)


What could be causing such terror in the hearts of so many mothers?  Two little words: Summer Vacation.  That’s right.  The thing that brought us, as children, so much joy and glee paralyzes mothers across America with fear.  While our children see a heavenly extended break from school, we see approximately 90 days of no structure, no routine, and no breaks.  The calendar mocks us with its empty days…I can see the tumbleweeds rolling through my June, July, and August on my MacBook and it chills my very core.  Because yes, kids do love summer vacation but I guarantee 26 minutes into their first day off, those same kids will wail in a nails-on-a-chalkboard sort of way, “Moooooom….I’m….soooooo…..boooooreed!”

Now, I love my children.  Truly I do, but there is a thing as too much “togetherness.”  And summer vacation tests those limits in painful and excruciating ways.  It’s all a very fine balancing act.  Yes, you want those long, lazy, hot days at the pool where you eat your weight in popsicles and you think you never want that day to end.  But end it does and you are faced with another day and another day after that…a seemingly endless string of days where you are expected to be some sort of Willy Wonka to your child’s Charlie, minus the ever entertaining Oompa Loompas.  And it is exhausting coming up with a roster of activities to fill the time: pool days, play dates, car washes, nature walks, park days, picnics, lemonade stands, and ice cream runs.  Because we do all these things and still, my children are bored.  Some moms may revel in the challenge of a 90-day one woman show and I salute you.  But I am also not ashamed to admit that I am not one of those moms.  I need help and I need it bad.

So what is a mother to do?  Thankfully, we live in a country that has no shortage of ways to keep children entertained via a wonderful, beautiful thing called CAMP.  Theater camps, nature camps, art camps, sports camps, language camps, book camps, church camps, zoo camps….it’s all there for the picking for the resourceful mom who can plan ahead.  And believe me when I say, you must plan ahead.  Because fear is a powerful motivator my friends, and there are thousands of other equally fearful moms out there prepared to take you out for the last spot on the “Pinkalicious Sing-A-Long and Dress-Up Camp.”  If you think just because you are a stay at home mom, you left the rat race, think again.  We may all be wearing scrunchies and tottering around town in a minivan, but we can be as cutthroat as a trader on the New York Stock Exchange floor when it comes our kids.

To illustrate: this past January, I was trying to sign Sarah up for a camp in August.  That’s right…January.  Winter was still in full swing and I was trying to enroll Sarah in a camp some 8 full months away.  I had coordinated with two other moms to get our girls into “Mermaid Magic,” a theater camp that promised four afternoons of under the sea revelry.  Phone lines opened at noon…yes, you read that right, “phone lines.”  What was this, 1988?? That should have been my first clue right there that this was not going to go well.  Undeterred, I forged ahead.  But I made a rookie mistake right out of the gate: I did not call until after Katie’s lunch, around 12:30.  I don’t know why I did this.  In all my years of signing up for various children’s activities,  I had never been “late” to the party so to speak.  I have set alarm clocks (sometimes as many as two at once when I was in California and realized I needed to get up at 6am for Central Time Zone 8am sign up), conducted dry runs logging in with my username and password the night before, placed my Visa in a secure but accessible location next to my laptop, and basically, had my registration process down to an art form.  It was the dang phone lines, I tell you.  Totally threw me for a loop.  Anyway, imagine my chagrin when all I heard was a busy tone.  Clue number 2 that this was not going to go as planned.  Hit redial, busy tone.  Redial; busy tone.  Repeat 898 times with Katie wailing in the background because I have abandoned all pretense of paying any attention to her in order to get through the $#&@ phone lines.

Had this been merely for some front-row seats at a U2 concert where Bono himself would personally serenade me or a date with Ryan Gosling to my 20th high school reunion,  I would have given up.  But no, this was for my child.  So I hit redial again and again and again.  Finally, at 1:25 I get through!  Exultant, I am prepared with my credit card in hand and have visions of Sarah in an undersea wonderland with her two little buddies.  I give the employee my desired camp time and am crushed to learn that it had already filled up….45 minutes prior.  I had failed.  No Mermaids.  No Magic.  No camp.  In the rat race that is being a stay at home mom, I was the sad, out of shape woman crawling to the finish line only to find that the medals had all been given away.

Luckily, all was not lost.  I regrouped and I was able to get Sarah into a different camp with a different friend for that week.  She’ll be making accessories for her American Girl Doll in what I can only assume is some sort of small sweatshop.  In addition, she will also take golf lessons and tennis lessons, participate on a swim team, go to a Y camp, and attend a one day “Hawks, Owls, and Falcons” camp where hopefully, no one will lose an eye.  All these activities plus the support of a team of highly skilled babysitters should get me through to the fall.  It takes a village, right?  And then school will start anew and mothers across the country will breathe a collective sigh of relief and feel a sense of pride that we survived yet another summer.

Sarah mucking it up at a summer nature camp

Sarah mucking it up at a summer nature camp


4 thoughts on “No More Pencils, No More Books

  1. Jane, you have “done it again” Smile across my face reading all about today’s age of lots of camps and playdates. 🙂

  2. Matt is always amazed how I manage to get a camp for each of them every week of the summer. Last year, I got a little tired of driving them around and trying to get to my tennis lessons. Oh, the problems we have…. But I agree, kids need to stay busy in the summer to save our sanity!!!! Your insert on the mermaid camp reminded me of Jack and Lily’s preschool days. We would have to stay outside in the freezing rain across the street of the place until exactly 5:00pm and then make a mad rush to the front door and get a number. And you could only take one number. With having two kids the same grade, I actually had Matt take off work early, drive by this extremely busy 4 way stop timing it, and as 5pm approached, I jumped out with him screamming RUN RUN! as I raced to the door. Hysterical!! Good times. Glad they are in public school now where they have to find a space for them.

    • Ok- that is hilarious. Another friend of mine told me that for one summer camp in New Mexico, the parents CAMP OUT the night before for a spot. So yes, phone lines were so not 2012 but at least I didn’t have to show up physically somewhere!!!

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