There are good things and bad to be said about finally having a school-aged child. Although my husband and I still have a few more years to go before our 2-year-old daughter, Reese, starts elementary school, we often think and talk about how much easier it’ll make life for our family.
Don’t get me wrong — having a toddler is a lot of fun, but there’s just something appealing about not having to worry about the high cost of daycare anymore, occasional freedom from lunch-packing and having a child who’s a bit more independent. She’ll be able to tell us more about her day and her friends, get her own snacks, entertain herself for longer than five minutes without the help of her parents and, perhaps best of all, handle bathroom breaks all on her own.
Sounds great, right? Well, that is, until I talked to a friend who has a 7-year-old daughter poised to enter second grade this fall. It seems there’s one thing I failed to really consider — summer breaks. Apparently, it’s not that there are too few options to keep children occupied when school’s out; there are too many.
Sure, it would be easy to plunk an elementary-school student in a summer-daycare program and call it a day. It’s nice to know the little ones will be closely supervised, and sticking to the same daily routine for weeks on end has its benefits. But with all the camps, field trips, recreational lessons and sports training sessions available in June and July, who’d want to limit their kids and risk having them miss out on the opportunity to learn something valuable, have fun and meet new people?
Plus, children want to do what their friends are doing. So, if little Sally is excitedly spreading the word among her clique that she’ll be participating in morning ballet-camp sessions and tri-weekly afternoon swimming lessons all summer, chances are her playmates will want to join her. Cue the parental requests and pleas. Unfortunately, for some parents, enrolling children in and shuttling them to multiple daytime activities is enough to bring on a migraine — especially for moms and dads who work full-time.
First, all these camps, trips and engagements aren’t cheap. Between enrollment fees, tuition, field-trip costs and food, prepare to fork over some dough.
Second, the logistics can be a nightmare. If a particular summer program is mornings-only, Mom needs to figure out who will pick up the kids and take them to their next activity. Of course, parents have the option of using their lunch hours to accomplish this, but what if someone gets hung up at work? Grandparents may factor in, but — like my husband and me — not everyone has family in the area. Maybe transportation can be arranged through a stay-at-home mom friend, which is great .... until she and her family go on vacation for a week. Then what?
Third, these summer programs run for varying lengths of time. Some last a week. Some run for a month. Some are all summer long. But, rest assured, there will be awkward gaps and spaces of time to fill between the activities your child wants to participate in. Should parents enroll their kids in yet another program just so they have something to do when the camps they really want to attend are not in session? Find a babysitter willing to accommodate sporadic care requests? Try to coordinate it so that the annual family vacation or grandma’s weeklong visit coincides with the between-camp gaps?
Best-case scenario: Even the most organized, efficient parents will come up with a cobbled-together plan that is dependent on a handful of people pitching in to help watch, transport, entertain and feed varying numbers of children at irregularly staggered intervals throughout the summer.
That sure seems like a heck of a lot of work to me. In fact, now that I think about it, sticking with regular, old toddler daycare for another year or two doesn’t really sound like such a bad idea after all.