For those of you who have never had the pleasure of sending your kids away (AWAY!) to day camp because it is ungodly expensive and holy hell how are we supposed to afford that... let me tell you a little something that authentically never occurred to me: THERE ARE SCHOLARSHIPS.
Several weeks ago whilst I was quietly but definitely losing my mind, ye olde Smartner took it upon himself to look into camp. (For my sanity? For the good of the children? For everyone's health and safety? Yes, yes, and yes.) And while I laughed heartily at him for even thinking we *might* be able to afford it, he went and figured out that the beautiful, wonderful, blesséd community centers in our area have incredible scholarships for those of us in the "what money?" camp. Like, really, really good scholarships. Amazingly good. Good enough that my kids are able to go to day camp all summer so that I can get my work done during the day! While it is light out! When normal people work! And that means that I get to spend time with my family in the evenings and on weekends and get a reasonable amount of sleep. It's like real, actual heaven. Last week I worked without interruption for hours in a row in total silence in my very own house. AND I GOT TO PEE ALONE.
And! And! My kids LOOOOOOVE it. They adore it. They are THRILLED about camp. The eldest Smartling loves that he has made new friends and gets to play dodgeball. The littlest Smartling is delighted with the snacks and the going places. They've learned to play Battleship. They come home with crafts. They go on field trips to the aquarium and go swimming and go to the library and play delightful games in the gym and play outside on the awesome playground and they get mad if I pick them up before 4:30 and THEY COME HOME EXHAUSTED.
I mean, this is what dodgeball was like for me, but my kids seem to like it? (Image source)
You guys. Camp is like Disneyland for all of us. I had no idea.
The other day was my birthday, so Smartner took a day off work and, since I'd gotten all my work done the week before during the day (because of camp!), we got to spend an entire day together. During the day. Without kids. Because camp. We ate food without any arguments with tiny people, and then we wandered slowly and freely in and out of adorable local shops without any arguments with tiny people, and we spent some time at home just DOING SOME THINGS without any interruptions from tiny people. I mean. WHAT EVEN IS THIS LIFE.
I did not think this was the kind of thing we could do. We're a writer and an artist. We have never had much money. We have never been able to afford the things that most of our friends can afford. And, while it sucks sometimes, it's not usually that big of a deal. But when it comes to any kind of childcare, it's rough. Finding out that there were scholarships available and ways to make this work was, quite literally, life-changing for our family. It has been transformative. I'm so much less exhausted. I have so much more energy and patience. My kids were home sick for two days (because, probably, camp), and we got along. Normally sick days are a struggle, but because we haven't been climbing on top of each other 24/7 for the past week and a half, there was patience and grace and calm.
So here's what I'm saying: If you are a stay-at-home parent and summer is slowly killing you (I totally feel you), GET YOU SOME CAMP. Look into scholarships. Ask for donations from family members in lieu of birthday or holiday presents. Sell something. Maybe even a kidney. DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO I PROMISE IT'S WORTH IT. Even just for a week.* Even for a teeny, tiny respite. Trust me. CAMP. Camp. CAMP!!
*Next year, our income will have gone up just enough that we won't get the amazing ginormous scholarship we received this year, so we probably won't be able to do the full summer of camp. But, even if we were able to manage just 2 or 3 or 4 weeks spread out over the summer? It still would have saved my butt. Even one week. Sometimes you just need to breathe again. And after just one week, I was able to breathe again. WORTH IT.