A long, long time ago—actually it was only two years, but kid years count quadruple—my partner David and I had a lovely weekend ritual. Every Sunday, we’d treat ourselves to a babysitter to watch Donny, our then 3-year-old daughter, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. We’d go have brunch, walk around our Brooklyn neighborhood hand in hand, take the dog to play Frisbee, and most importantly, connect. Or better said, reconnect after a typical hectic week of working and taking care of everybody else’s needs first.
It was three hours of foreplay, because at 1 p.m. sharp, we’d relieve the babysitter, put Donny down for her afternoon nap and move to the bedroom for hours of awesome sex, fun and chilling out. Damn, those were good times. Until the inevitable day when Donny stopped napping. And it all got shot to shit.
Fast forward a few years. Donny’s 5 and in kindergarten at our local public school. David and I are now both freelancers, working from home, trying to get as much done before her 2:45 dismissal, at which point one of us takes care of her. We don’t have lots of money to spare, but David and I like what we receive in exchange: quality time with Donny…as long as school is actually in session. When it’s not, well, that’s an entirely different matter.
This past April, when Donny’s spring break loomed just weeks ahead, we were filled with a dread common to working parents who can’t afford family vacations or babysitting (and all of our regular evening sitters had day jobs anyway). There was no avoiding it. We were going to have an entire week with our daughter at home. Fuckkkkkkk!
As we quickly scrambled to arrange playdates at someone else’s house, and new films she might enjoy on Netflix, an email came from her school. They were offering a spring break camp. An enthusiastic email thread soon started among all the moms from Donny’s class discussing which days they were signing up for. “Madison’s doing Tuesday Zoo, Bowling Thursday and Movie Friday!” wrote one mom. “Jack’s doing those too!” another mom wrote back. I decided we could spring for two days.
Donny picked Arts & Crafts Wednesday—a day that promised lots of creative art merrymaking (her favorite activity), a local playground trip, and planting in the school’s awesome garden (which really sealed the deal for her)—and Bowling Thursday. But by the time I registered, bowling was filled up. So I paid the $90 for Wednesday, glad Donn could enjoy at least one day of fun stuff.
Then it dawned on me—David and I deserved our own day camp of fun too. It was spring break, after all. I told him to clear his schedule and ink in Foreplay Day Date and Sex Wednesday.
Spring break began, and after two days with Donny home, we were all ready for camp. But when we got to her school…several things seemed…well…off.
To begin with, although the main entrance was open, there were no signs telling us where the camp was, or acknowledging its existence.
Dave laughed, “Do you think camp is somewhere else?”
“It can’t be,” I said. A father came down the stairs with his kid, lost and equally puzzled.
We grouped together and followed distant noises to the cafeteria. I surveyed the gray room (unlike the rest of the brightly painted school), and an unidentified woman handed us a clipboard to sign Donn in, then walked away.
Dave leaned his head towards mine, “Shouldn’t there be some kind of counselor?”
“Maybe one of those people in the back?” I eyed the sprinkling of adults who weren’t hanging out with the few kids already there.
In front of us were four stations of self-occupying kid activities: crayons and paper, sticks and marshmallows, Legos and dolls.
I prayed to my agnostic god: Please let this be just some bullshitty crap they put out until the other kids arrive and the missing camp counselor leads them in the real art projects they promised, then brings them outside for gardening.
Dave and I put on a happy face. “Donny. Look! Crayons and paper! How ’bout you do a little drawing?” Donn sat down halfheartedly. We hugged her goodbye and no adult even noticed when we left.
When we got outside, I said, “Well, that was totally depressing.”
Dave took my hand. “Donn’s going to be just fine.”
“You do realize anyone could walk in there and kidnap any kid in that room and pretty much no one would notice.”
“Do you know how many hits we’ve taken for that kid? She can take one for the team. Trust me.”
And with that, we left our guilt (and worry) behind, and officially began our day date. We strolled. Got breakfast. Went home, opened the prosecco bought just for the occasion, and got it on.
Like all babysitting, day care or school hours, the time flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to pick Donn up. At least this time we knew where to go.
Donn ran to us. “Mommy! Daddy!” We put our arms around her. Before leaving, she said goodbye to Elly, a friend she’d made playing with dolls.
Once outside I asked, “So, how was it?!”
She exhaled dramatically. “I didn’t really like it so much.”
“Oh,” I said, depleted. “How come?”
“Yeah,” said Dave, “it looks like you made a new friend.”
“Well, we didn’t get to plant, and we didn’t get to do arts and crafts.”
“Did you at least go to the playground?”
“Yeah,” she said, dispassionately. We crossed the street. “You know, guys. It just felt like a really, really long day.”
My body stiffened with post-coital guilt, as I composed a complaint email demanding our money back in my head. But by dinnertime, Donn had more than bounced back, and I figured the school, which was excellent, this day notwithstanding, deserved the money anyway.
Today marks the first day of Donn’s summer recess. Spring break times eight. But this time, she’s going to camp for the month of July. It’s her first time and I know she’s going to love it—not just because it isn’t in her school’s cafeteria, but because we went to their open house and it was totally cool.
Next April, when spring break first grade happens, Donny will still do the school’s camp, but with three small changes:
1. I’ll sign her up faster than a hot knife through butter.
2. I’ll make sure she only does field trip days.
3. I’ll buy two bottles of prosecco instead of one.