Summer, Camp and Expectations

Amanda Magee Elementary School

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I find myself getting so tripped up in summer expectations, mine, not my kids. Somewhere along the line I made summer synonymous with childhood, as if every single memory that my daughters may live to have can only be made during summer.  Rationally I know that’s not true, there are birthdays, Christmas, first day of school, but still, when I think childhood, I think summer.

I didn’t have fancy summers growing up in Eugene, Oregon. My sister and I had a babysitter who lived down the street. Most days she watched three solid hours of soap operas—All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital. When I wasn’t checking in on Luke and Laura, I was tromping in my backyard or roller-skating on the deck fairly unattended. I did go to one week of sports day camp at the University of Oregon, but a pedophile was in the area, so everyone was wary and it kind of tainted camp.

Over the years we’ve done a mix of babysitters and day camp for our girls. We have been squarely in misfit land between those who have a solid roster of different camps and those who stay home for the summer. I feel ashamed sometimes, but I don’t want either of those. I’m not ready for overnight camp, nor can I really afford it. Ironically, I’m also not ready to stay at home all summer, nor can I really afford it.

One of the camps from last summer, the slam-dunk, relatively inexpensive, and idyllically free form, felt like old-school-summer-days camp stopped being fun for my daughters. They liked a shorter, more intense, and more expensive camp that involves a lot more ferrying to and from than we’ve ever done and that my youngest can’t yet do.

This summer I asked myself what we were doing and why. The answer was simple: what works for us, all of us.

I thought that by us making a plan, loose as it may be, that would be the end of it. I forgot people. It has begun to feel like every conversation I have with other adults goes a little bit like this:

“So are the girls going to any camps this summer?”

“Yes, I found a STEM camp that they can do together for 1 week and then another week the big girls will do lacrosse,” I answer.

“Uh-huh, and what else are they doing?”

“That’s it.”

“And will you be home with them?” they say.

I’m not sure when small talk went from just that to some sort of probing inquiry and assessment of parenting and providing for our kids.

“I’m planning a modified schedule. I’ll be at the office in the mornings; sometimes the girls will come with me and visit the library. Then I’ll be home for the afternoon.”

It’s always that same response: “oh.” Maybe I’m too sensitive; actually, I’m sure that I’m too sensitive thanks to summer expectations and how I approach being a mom. I hold myself up to something I perceive to be a standard, but is in fact not something that has ever been done; it’s the elusive, better than I’m doing way.

Maybe summer could be the one time when all of us send expectations packing and give each other a break.

Camps are great for kids who want to do it.

Staying at home is amazing for moms or dads who want and can do it.

Weaving an experience of structure and free time is awesome.

I also think it’s pretty rad to let people cobble together their own summers and do what works for them.

Camp: “Choosing A Makeshift Plan”

It let’s us switch things up if we need to, let’s the kids have a range of different experiences, but it also gives us the freedom to let summer happen. Enjoy your summer plans, whatever they are, wherever they are, or whether they even exist yet.


About the Author

Amanda Magee

Amanda Magee is the owner of an advertising and design agency. She and her husband are raising their three daughters in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York. Between desperate dashes to meet the bus, never-ending home improvement projects, and the odd trip to the gym, you can find Amanda writing at her personal blog .

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