Remember when you loved summer? Sun, fun, freedom, vacation, and best of all, no school! It was an amazing three months, and it never seemed to last long enough. Then you had kids.
When you’re a parent, and I don’t care if you were a high-school dropout, you’ve never loved school more (at least until your kids start needing help with their homework). Even more than that, though, is the appreciation you gain for teachers. I’m not even talking about good teachers, because honestly, who cares? I don’t mind if you spend all day watching movies so long as you keep my kid out of my hair for the bulk of the day.
And nothing drives home how essential the school system is like being faced with two to three months of finding ways to entertain your kids for 10 hours a day. Anyone who is willing to take on that burden is a saint, and they deserve every penny.
Suddenly, you can’t understand why the United States doesn’t have school year round. Thanks, Obama! Suddenly, your favorite season of the year turns on you. You used to be friends! Not anymore. Because when you have kids, summer is not only much less fun than it was when you were their age, it seems to last forever.
Without school, your kids are rudderless. Without structure, their lives are chaos, their energy transmuted into anarchy. They need someone to rein them in, to keep them entertained, to take them somewhere far away for six hours a day so you can hear yourself think and accomplish a few things. Otherwise you’re stuck shepherding them to and from the playground, to and from playdates, with you on Target runs, with you on bathroom runs, in your face when you’re writing an important email, on your back when you’re making an important phone call — with you, next to you, on top of you, asking for you, whining near you, begging from you. It never ends.
And so every summer, you find yourself calculating the same equation: How much does your sanity cost?
Because the solution you seek, the respite from your kids’ uncontainable rambunctiousness and infinite cries of boredom, is summer camp. And summer camp costs a fortune. We’re talking upwards of $500 a week. That’s insane. That’s not even for a sleepaway camp! Five hundred bucks a week? For that money, my kid had better come back knowing how to build smartphones.
Granted, I live in New York City where the streets are paved with gold, but only the 1% are allowed to use them. Of course this isn’t merely a NYC problem. Camp is expensive everywhere, because supply and demand. Like those entrepreneurial geniuses who patrol every park with their ice cream trucks and Italian ice carts, the people who run these camps are no dopes. They understand that if parents want to survive until September, they’ll pay anything to get their kids out of their hair.
Still, the cost can be hard to justify — until summer actually starts because it does not take long to break you.
On the first day of summer break, my 5-year-old exclaimed, “I’m bored!” at 9:24 a.m. — the first day of summer break. We are now a few weeks in and this morning the kid spent 20 minutes shining a flashlight directly in my face. Suddenly, in the face of two more months of this kind of abuse, my financial worries seem insignificant. I can’t even remember what I was hesitating about.
At this point, I will literally give you one of my kidneys if you’ll come take my kid and force him to do arts and crafts somewhere in the woods. No weirdos.