Sunday, July 31, 2011

A mostly lazy, lollygagging summer

My daughter wanted a mostly camp-free summer and I have granted her that wish—one week of art camp (which she requested) will be her only camp this year. This means that I am the default activities director for what has become our two-person camp.

I can grant her that wish because I work from home as a part-time editor. I know most parents can’t afford this luxury of time and must put their kids in a long string of camps to cover their time at work. But I’ve observed kids getting camp fatigue after a few weeks of it, begging and whining busy, stressed parents to give them some kind of reprieve, and the parents left to cajole or threaten them into going back.

I tell myself that kids need time to lollygag around and find ways to entertain themselves, that over-structured activity time suppresses creativity, and that sometimes it’s best to focus on one thing at a time. But I’m not sure that I’m really good at this—or that a real camp director couldn’t do a better job.

In an effort to help her earn the Junior Girl Scout Sew Simple badge, we spent nearly a full day cutting out and sewing a Butterick “See and Sew” dress pattern—which I soon renamed “Scream and Sew” after ripping out many wrong seams. I’m sure a crafts teacher at a real camp would have shown more patience, would have made it a more fun activity (since she would have hopefully known what she was doing).

And our little camp comes at a price. I have mostly quit writing; any free time has been spent on paid editing work. I find myself sometimes secretly counting the days until summer’s end.

Then I remember how wearying and over-scheduled the school year was last year. And I see E-girl happily writing books and drawing in homemade sketchbooks, without any prompting on my part. She also reads books, makes videos, and hangs out at the pool (and, yes, she plays computer and video games when it's too hot to go outside). Earlier in the summer, before it got so hot, we gardened together in the mornings and managed to re-landscape the side yard.

I’m not sure we’ll do this again. Next year, I’m already eyeing away camps and more structured activities. But this year, we have this temporary luxury of time and, sometimes, it seems like we aren't entirely wasting it.

(Photograph Copyright 2011, Beth Blevins)

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