For our family, ever since I became a mom, every summer has been a “Camp Mom” summer.
Until my kids were in high school I was a stay-at home mom. Yes, I volunteered in the schools in many capacities but my priority was always my family and my home. And even since then, my work in a local preschool and writing allow me the freedom to be available for my kids and to have summers to enjoy with them.
I recognize that this is a gift – that I’m blessed to have been able to be a stay-at-home mom, and to now be a flexible working mom. The time with my kids has been and continues to be precious. I see the fruits of it in the relationships we share and in my children themselves.
No plans were the best plans
Camp Mom was very laid back. When my children were five and under we mostly took each day as it came. Sunny and warm? We set up the large kiddie pool and put the small Little Tykes® slide partly into it and splashed and played. Sometimes we ate a picnic lunch on a big beach blanket or played on our swing set. There were afternoon popsicles or ice cream.
Rainy day? Not a problem! My children never tired of playing in our playroom, complete with a big bounce house/ball pit and their favorite toys. And if it was hot outside, splashing in the puddles and twirling in the rain as it fell was exhilarating! Sometimes we’d go to an indoor play place or children’s museum, or a friend’s house for a playdate.
Camp Mom Became More Creative
During the elementary school years my kids gave day camp a try. Not the all-day, get on the bus at 8am and off the bus at 4pm kind, rather they tried the kind at our local park district and Botanic Gardens that gave them about four hours of camp several days a week.
To be honest, while they enjoyed this experience somewhat, neither of them were really into it. Camp Mom evolved as they’d grown and gave them the perfect combination of relaxation, organized fun and free time with their friends when they were available.
By this time, I’d created some themed weeks (much like they have at day camp) for the three of us to enjoy. We had Wild Water Week, Crazy Crafts Week, Check out Chocolate (and candy, cupcakes, cookies) Week and many more. For the Chocolate etc. week we didn’t just buy lots of chocolate. We went to the shops that let you make your own creations and also made our own chocolate creations at home. Amidst all this, we visited local carnivals, the 4th of July Parades and fireworks, etc. We listened to crickets chirping and watched fireflies light up the nights.
It Was All So Simple – And That Was Perfect
By middle school, we’d added a full-sized water slide to our collection, and when I wasn’t taking my kids to the local pool or beach, they’d enjoy hours on it with their friends. Sometimes our across the yard neighbors would set up their own water slide and our kids would go back and forth between the yards. We all enjoyed patio picnics, including breakfasts of pancakes or waffles with different courses at each of our patios.
If all this sounds like a throwback to much simpler times, that’s great! Those are exactly the kind of summers I was hoping to give my kids. The lazy days that could be packed with adventure, or just lounging around. The kind where eating ice cream treats and socializing at the neighborhood Ice Cream Truck was a highlight. The kind with making s’mores around the fire pit and hanging out with friends.
The Key Was Being Present
In the high school years, and now college, my kids took charge of their summers. Yes, there was babysitting and summer jobs, and they joined us on a family beach vacation that became a tradition for us. But they have continued to embrace the slower and simpler days, reminiscent of our summers years ago. I’m hopeful that this summer, there will be a gathering or two around our fire pit, and on our trampoline that became known as much for sitting and having deep conversations as it was for jumping and showing off flips.
Our summers were able to be the carefree and rich days that they were largely because I was able to be fully present in them. They not only left all of us with cherished memories, but they instilled an appreciation for the simpler ways, and for the blessings found in not always having to be busy. Camp Mom was honestly as much of a treasure for me as it was for my children.