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.

How Do Parents Really Feel About Back to School?

Me? I’m thrilled that my kids start school tomorrow and the day after.

I mean the summer was fantastic for my kids. Even though they had to be out of the house an hour earlier (than our usual school-time mornings) to get the bus to camp, their days were filled with fun and exploration. Each afternoon, they came home exhausted, filthy and happy. They ate their body weight in food for dinner each night, guzzled their milk and slept like babies. I absolutely believe they both grew a foot in height and gained a virtual pint of confidence and joie de vivre. Their bodies are toned, they have gorgeous tan lines and their hair is bleached. I look at them and see perfection, as only a mother does.

But I am beyond ready for a return to the regular routine of the school week. Our whole family needs the structure that the school week provides. My son in particular, given the latitude of the summer months and his tendency to take a mile if given an inch, really needs the grounding infrastructure – dare I say restraint? – of school: for him, the order and discipline of school helps to amplify and reinforce the behaviors we expect from him at home. For my daughter, starting kindergarten cannot come soon enough. She is extremely ready for this next stage in her journey. She is hungry to learn, eager to become “a big girl.” I am so incredibly excited for her.

And I wondered how other parents feel about this time of the year. Relieved and eager like me, I presumed? After all, I’ve seen tweets aplenty from other Moms expressing their bittersweet farewells to summer and their welcome embrace of the return to school.

So I decided to conduct some very informal, unscientific research among my networks and was actually surprised by the variety of responses. I asked parents to express from 1-10 how they feel about back to school, with 10 being the superlative (where I’m at.) Here’s some of what I heard:

0 – downright miserable:

I want them home with us and not have to get them up (which is torture for all of us) and then homework and routine and then we cannot go on trips and then we have to deal with the schools and then bus and I could go on, and the cold weather …

5 … reluctantly returning to reality:

The summer went by too fast! I want to play some more! I also don’t want to get back to the routine of rushing in the mornings, homework, sports and reality…..

8 … super excited:

I am super excited because my children are looking forward to school. It also gives one of the best people in my life some one on one time with my littlest one and hopefully more time for her to get everything that she wants to do, done ….

15 … (remember the scale was 1-10!):

The time has come. We need some structure back into our lives.

So, Moms and Dads, how do you feel? Will you be whooping and cheering as the school bus drives off or grumbling through the next few days?

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