This summer, I’m not sending my kids away to camp

I have mostly kept my kids in summer camp in the years since I have been out of full-time work, the same way I did when it was a necessity for childcare. But this year I have signed them up for just two weeks of sleep-away camp in August. My goal is to forge new bonds with my boys by figuring them out and letting them figure me out — warts and all.

Of course, it is so easier to plan them senseless all summer long to keep my sanity, and believe me, I was tempted to do so. But then I remembered: I quit my job and haven’t gotten another not just because the world of journalism imploded, not just because my husband can support us, but because I really want to understand what’s going on with my kids so that I may be of some small use to them in their lives. And that’s a hefty load. Parenting is not just the time spent with the kids, it is also about building one’s confidence enough so that when the time to step to the plate arises, you are ready.

But summer has always been a crucial season for me to gather my wits and fuel up for the big game. I’ve usually tried to relax again and take things slow during the break between school years. It’s about actually maybe being bored and figuring what might float your boat, what it is you actually want to do. Even if you work full time, the days stretch long into night and there is far more opportunity to find things that are pure fun.

Computer screens loom large in our lives these days. But there must be other things that scintillate us outside of watching the stories other people have written or playing the games they have invented to test our skills. It’s important to find more active things where our minds and bodies are fully engaged, and not just because a teacher or a counselor makes us.

I am nervous as I stare at the clock and imagine the hours ticking by slowly, as I hear the computers going upstairs and imagine my newly woken progeny engaged with them (instead of me?). What will we do today?

The first day off, we went to lunch with friends and spent the bulk of the day in the park, wandering. Oscar found every possible treat along the way and I joked that he could start his own camp, the “Sugar Tour of Prospect Park.” I’m sure he’d get lots of takers.

There were many fights, as Eli bullied Oscar and Oscar bullied right back. It made me nervous for the long days ahead in Long Island, for our vacation to the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t quit my job to yell at my kids, I don’t stay home so that I can lecture, lecture, lecture.

Or did I? Hmm.

I realize that being with the boys fulltime, I am forced to see what their instincts compel them to do, how they react to me, to each other, and to the world at large. In seeing those instincts, I am forced to tell them what I think, how I might wish for them to understand their actions better and take responsibility for them. This summer, when their tired teachers get a much-needed break, I am their teacher, and when things go wrong there will be no one to blame but me and my husband.

Thankfully, I now have a furry friend, a little companion who looks at me with sympathetic eyes just at it hits me with a great sinking suspicion that I may be doing it all wrong, that I am possibly the poster child for what not to do as a teacher and role model. Buy my doggie’s eyes give me some hope that as the summer moves on, I do get some credit for at least trying.

My fingers crossed that that might count for something, especially with the people who count most: my boys.

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