The other day, I awoke to a naked 4-year-old standing next to my bed. It isn’t unusual for my son to wake up and come running to our room in the morning. But usually, he’s dressed, excited to show me his Mickey T-shirt or his cool new sneakers with laces he’s (somewhat) tied himself. My kindergartner in his full naked glory is not a sight I’m used to seeing at 6 in the morning.
Once I emerged from my sleepy haze, I realized why my son was naked. It was Dress Like a Superhero Day at camp, and he didn’t want to play along.
For the hour before I left for work, I tried cajoling him into putting on a mask, or a cape, or at least some underwear. I didn’t want him to arrive at camp and be the only kid not in the superhero spirit. But after a while I gave up. Why should he have to dress up in a costume in the middle of July? When I left to catch my train, he was still naked (which was thankfully now his father’s problem).
But all of this raises a question: when did summer camp get so complicated? The next day was Crazy Hair Day, followed shortly after by Crazy Hat Day and Mixed-Up Socks Day. Yes, I understand this is supposed to be fun, and I’m sure for a lot of kids and parents it is. But for me, summer is hard enough. I work full time, and coordinating two kids in two different camps (because of their ages) already requires a master’s degree. Each morning, I have to remember which kid needs a bathing suit, or a camp shirt for trip day, or three layers of organic sunblock, or extra money for a snack or a tattoo. Adding theme days is an extra level of stress that adds to my parental guilt each time I inevitably forget or don’t have time to hunt down a pirate patch or miniature bell bottoms. Does it all need to be so complicated?
To be honest, I’m not sure my son is all that excited about these fun ideas either. Some mornings, it just becomes one more thing to argue about. After all, with a 4-year-old, you never know what’s going to be The Best Idea Ever, or just one more excuse for a tantrum. For every morning he’s pumped about the possibility of Daddy giving him a mohawk, there’s an hour-long argument about the merits of a Batman cape that can be stuffed in his bag “just in case” he wants it later.
Can I just point out that it’s summer? The whole school year is spent with me trying to get my daughter to do her homework, or organizing all of us to do family projects for my son’s class. Then there’s the soccer, the basketball, the school plays, the volunteer work I try to make us do. Ten months out of the year, we’re in perpetual motion, with me running an ever-growing to-do list through my mind like a computer printing out a thousand-page document. For two hot, sticky months of the year, can’t we catch a break? Can’t camp just be about swimming and playgrounds and trips to the water park? Isn’t camp already fun enough without cowboy hats and faux hawks?
On that note, Mommy has work to do. Tomorrow is Wear-a-Disney-Shirt-to-Camp Day, and my son’s favorite Mickey Mouse tee is in the laundry. See you at the pick-up line!
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