One of the best benefits of my job as a professor is having summers off (mostly--I usually have to work for 6 weeks of it) with my kids. It means that I don't have to scramble to find some stimulating activity for them from the 3rd week in June until September 1st. Here's where it gets complicated though. Since I do have to work a little in the summer AND my semester begins at the wildly inconvenient time of the 3rd week in August, I do have to put the kids in some kind of part-time summer activity day camp. This year, they did summer school and camp through the local school district and seemed to have a really good time.
Summer is almost over and the kids will be heading back to school with what I hope are sweet memories of our travels, fun days at summer day camp, and time at home with each other and me. As a working mom, I always look forward to the time I get at home with them. I get to be a stay-at-home mom for a sweet month. And I always dream that this time will be filled with crafts and art projects, baking and swimming and card-playing. Instead, I'm distracted by my own desire to read or sew or edit photos--write a blog, maybe. It's mind boggling how I can want to be with them so badly, and when we are together for a day, I struggle with giving them my undivided attention.
Cut to 7-year-old twins being silly, ramping each other up, getting critical about who is getting what turn, and then, ultimately, trying to kill each other from the togetherness. Quick, Mom, do something!!!! It's time to engage (like Elastigirl says to Mr. Incredible).
Enter Camp Mom. I thought if I could replicate all the fun of camp at home and give the kiddies some purpose for the time together, we'd all have a better summer. I came up with a schedule of activities for the whole day. Campers had to tidy up their "cabins" (rooms), pick a team mascot (stuffed animal), and create a team song to perform during the night time "campfire." We had a scooter race, obstacle course, scavenger hunt (otherwise know as shopping at Trader Joe's). They created cards for their grandfather, something I had begged them to do for days, that they were finally willing to do under the guise of the "Bon Voyage Boat Craft" at Camp Mom.
At the end of Camp Mom, teams were awarded "Trophies" that they had helped design.
There were a few teachable moments during the day. The team competitions really had them in a frenzy over fairness. Having points awarded based on being the fastest or jumping the farthest taught them about sportsmanship (after a considerable amount of crying). Creativity points were awarded to the most thoughtful mascot decoration or "cabin" arrangement, presenting them with a stronger sense of perseverance and attention to detail. T1 said at one point, "I was having so much fun that I forgot that I hadn't played my DS!" Really? You mean I can get your face out of that machine by providing you with a creative endeavor that speaks to your sense of competition? Why had I never tried this before?
More than the success of Camp Mom as far as the kids were concerned, (trophies! field trips! treats!) was the complete sense of engagement with each other. I got what I had been looking for all summer. While I know that this wasn't rocket science, and that creative moms do stuff like this everyday, for me, it was a triumph over the anxiety that sometimes takes over when I try to figure out how I'm going to be with my kids and accomplish all the things that fulfill me at the same time. I gave myself over completely to the nurturing of these children, without the distraction of the work that I wanted to get done, for this one day, and it felt right.
While we were at the park, me orchestrating an obstacle course race, another parent commented on what we were doing. "That's quite a system you've got going there. Have you been doing this all summer?" I laughed. "Are you kidding?" I said, "we've only been doing this for today!" But for that one day, we were a unit--like a real camp. We had a common goal--to have fun together--and that we did.
Think I should put together Camp Mom for this fall? Hmmmm.