Summer Camp Preparation: A Business Woman’s Guide

Twenty-one days. That’s how much time is left until my family’s weekday morning schedule has to adjust backwards by an hour.

Excuse me while I hyperventilate.

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Yup, summer camp is almost here. And we all know how I feel about summer camp: it’s a love/hate thing. But the few weeks leading up to the transition from school to camp make my stomach churn with anxiety. How the heck are we going to get out of the door at 8am every morning, when doing it at 9am every day during the school year is so freaking challenging? The drama, the yelling, the last minute “oh I need a penguin for today’s xyz project?” or “I can’t find my shoes” or “mama I have no underpants” calamities.

And yet, every year, we seem to manage. I’m driven largely by a deep-rooted fear of missing the camp bus which would mean driving the kids 30 mins to a place that is entirely the opposite direction from my office. Yes, fear. It’s a big motivator.

So, to mitigate against drama, chaos, panic and so on, preparation is key and for this, I draw upon a few fundamentals from the world of business:

Procurement: Be sure to stock up on sufficient kids clothes (so you don’t have to do laundry more than once a week) and other essentials which will get lost, despite all and any attempts to label them or nail them to your kids backpack or body. These include: socks, shoes, T-shirts, underpants, swimsuits, towel, water bottles, hats, sun lotion, bug spray, goggles, lunch boxes (and innards), and so on. Not to mention lunch and snack stuff.

Inventory: No matter how much you have procured ahead of time, odds are it will not be enough and at some point during the summer weeks, you’ll run out of something mission-critical. Or they’ll lose their back pack. Or wreck their shoes. Be prepared to maintain and strategically top-up inventory.

Logistics management: I cannot stress how important it is to keep things moving to avoid a great big pile-up of drama-inducing chaos. Yes, this means doing laundry semi-regularly and actually moving things from the washer to the drier and back into closets. It means making sure that shoes get taken off at the end of the day and actually put somewhere where they will be easily found the next morning. No matter how much you have drilled your kids in doing their own laundry or shoe-putting-where-they-need-to-go, during the summer time, you will probably need to take back these duties or at the very least micro-manage them. It also means fanatically accounting for the whereabouts of everything. Which usually goes a little something like this:

Me: “Didn’t you take a blue water bottle today?”
Kid: “Yes I did.”
Me: “So why did you bring home a green water [or no] bottle. “
Kid: “I lost/traded/forgot mine.”

Business processes: New household processes must be executed. For me, this involves rinsing out the kids’ swimsuits each night because if they get actually washed in the laundry too often, they start sagging at the bottom. (Note: this is because I buy cheap swim suits. See point 1.) And nobody likes saggy swim suit bottoms. It also means ensuring that bedtimes are observed because late nights mean late mornings which means panic, drama, yelling and me being late to work. Working backwards, if prompt bedtimes are to be observed, this means that dinner needs to be ready swiftly upon getting home at the end of each day. Which means we need to know what we are making for dinner each evening. Which requires aforethought and, you know, grocery shopping. (See procurement/inventory.)

Workforce management, scheduling and integration: In an ideal world, both parents are fully invested in the New World Order that summer camp season mandates. Similarly, adaptations usually need to be made to who’s doing drop offs and pick ups. It may take a while for all parties to adapt to the new routine so be sure to integrate it into the family schedule. If you have one. (Note to self: work on family schedule.)

Closed-loop feedback: Communication is absolutely essential. With all parties. Spouses/partners. Kids. Bus drivers. Camp counselors. Other parents. It also means reading every crumpled, dusty and damp piece of paper (why are they always damp?) that get stuffed into backpacks informing you about something important happening, like “It’s Green Day tomorrow!” or “Dress Like a Parrot Day.” (Confession: I usually ignore these because the procurement/inventory/supply chain is simply not flexible enough to allow for unexpected wardrobe changes.)

Twenty-one days. That’s how many days are left.

Pass the brown paper bag.

On Perspective and Empathy

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. A whirlwind of challenges swooping into my usually happy, upbeat daily existence. At work, a disgruntled client and a whiplashed team. At home, childcare logistical conundrums, preparations for a change of routine with school graduations and the start of camp. Nothing insurmountable, but enough to cause some self-doubt, angst, hand-wringing and yes, tears.

It’s very easy to get sucked into your own personal dramas. Especially if your energy is drained, your confidence is in a funk and there’s no clear path between each of the small obstacles cluttering your mind. Not to mention the crushing feeling when you put them all together – especially during the night when they conspire at the very edge of REM and blur reality with nightmares.

Truth is, my issues are wrinkles in the usual carefree life that I am incredibly lucky enough to enjoy.

But each of us has drama. These past two weeks I’ve heard of, shared, and listened to the dramas afflicting family, friends and colleagues. Sickness, divorce, heartbreak, death. On the flip-side of the doom and gloom, there have also been new babies on the brink of arrival, romances rekindled, achievements and breakthroughs.

A veritable slice of life.

I’ve been reminded that, to move through your own personal funk, you have to look outward. Perspective and empathy go hand-in-hand, each bolstering the other – a veritable renewable energy source. First, being able to express your woes to an active, empathetic listener helps you grieve, crystallize, process and ultimately, rationalize. Second, being the listener, providing an ear and a shoulder, as well as counsel if warranted, provides the source of focus, a mirror for perspective, new strength.

I’m not really sure where I am going with this, except to say that I’ve been on both sides of the fence and it’s actually very healthy. If all I do is bitch and moan about my issues, then quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to spend much time with me. But if, by being an empathetic listener, I can help – as well as find perspective to my own problems – then together we move forward.

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