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Summer: The Home Stretch

Summer: The Home Stretch

The comedown from a week away at summer camp took its toll on the kid — and us as well.
The comedown from a week away at summer camp took its toll on the kid — and us as well.

For us, this summer will go down as one of the hardest. Much to the chagrin of both father and daughter, we spent several weeks with no camp scheduled. Last week we all did enjoy a week with the girl at Girl Scout Camp way out in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, but before that, she had one week in Vermont with relatives, and a smattering of day camps.

Thanks to increasing parental paranoia, two-career households, and the rise of the Summer Camp Industrial Complex, kids just don’t randomly play anymore. At one time, a kid could just wander down to the playground and inevitably find one or two friends and before they knew it, they heard Mom calling them in for dinner. While the same age as my daughter, I spent whole summers like that. As a result, I hated camp.

Thanks to the tyranny programmed play and the lure of technology, if the kid isn’t playing a computer game, she has absolutely no clue what to do with herself. The tech by itself doesn’t necessarily bother me, but she only wants to play games or watch father-bashing Disney videos on Netflix. If she told me she wanted to create a movie, learn coding, or start a podcast, she’d have Carte Blanche to the computer.

The last month of summer promises a strong finish, however. We have a week planned in the Catskills on a quiet lake where we have banned screens, and the child’s other cousins have offered to bring her along for their vacation at Busch Gardens and Hilton head. Then school begins.

I don’t know how my daughter will look back on this particular summer, but a child’s memory has a nice way of filtering out moments of boredom, retaining the happy parts. I remember the woods, the trips to the beach, the sandlot games, and the random acts of mischief. I don’t remember boredom, though I don’t doubt we had some moments of it.

Home Theater

Home Theater

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She as a propensity for carving out her own spaces in our tiny house. She’s made whole worlds inside her closets; she’s built a library under a table; she’s architected sprawling structures from chairs, umbrellas, and blankets; and now she’s created her own home theater.

I wonder which one of her proclivities will lead to a career. My daughter the architect has a nice ring to it, though I continue to harbor the hope that she’ll become baseball’s first woman general manager.

Vacation or just a road trip?

Vacation or just a road trip?

Can you really call it a vacation when you travel with kids? When I consider that word, I imagine myself sitting quietly somewhere in a bucolic setting, reading a book I’ve long intended to read, and clearing my mind of all my troubles in a peaceful respite.

Bringing the child brings along all the same schedules and routines. It just changes the setting. 

We just returned from our week long trek by car to South Carolina, and I suppose by most measures, Cecelia behaved relatively well. On the way down, she had only one major meltdown. On the way back, she did worse, but by most standards, I suppose she stayed within the behavioral parameters of any given three-year-old. 

While staying at the vacation house, she also enjoyed the company of her cousin Anya, who came with parents Susan and Eric in tow. She definitely had a vacation. At the vacation house, she had easy access to a swimming pool, a playground, a large house with plenty of room to run around, and a day at the beach. For us, we had to take her to the pool, the playground, and the beach, while making sure she (and her cousin) didn’t get into too much mischief and/or break something. 

We certainly created many good memories, and I suspect that as the time passes and Cecelia grows into a bored teenager, we’ll eventually look back on this trip with fondness, forgetting the tantrums, the screaming, the sudden bolting, the defiance, and the other minor petulances. 

After all, I look back on all my childhood vacations with great reverence, thinking now that my own parents hardly relieved themselves of the the day-to-day stresses. I hope Cecelia will look back on the trip and remember all the things she did do and not those things that we couldn’t let her do.