Martin had a pretty good day. After grunting and growling in the early morning hours, along with socking his father in the side of the head, Martin pulled himself together and managed to have a fairly happy day. Here’s how we managed to make that happen:
8:00am – Breakfast
8:15 – Second breakfast
10:00 – Visit nearby children’s museum
1:00pm – Go to the Lego Store to buy a few accessories necessary to create a set of Lego people who look like U.S. presidents
4:00 – Swimming at neighborhood pool
6:00 – Walk and wagon ride along Lady Bird Lake boardwalk
8:00 – Ice cream parlor
You might be thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of activity for one day. Museum. Store. Pool. Lake. And an ice cream shop?” But that’s what it takes to fill up a summer day with Martin. And this wasn’t even a particularly busy day by our family’s standards. Further, we have to stay this busy every summer day, not just on weekends.
Again, you might be wondering, “Why doesn’t she just send him to a day camp or summer camp where the schedule is jam packed with everything from macrame to boating to romanticizing American Indians from dawn til dusk?” That is an excellent question, dear reader! The answer is that I can find only a few camps (daytime or sleepaway) that would take him and they cost A LOT.
“How much could it be,” you might be wondering. Or, “It’s your child. Isn’t he worth it?” Let me tell you how much it is. I have found one possible day camp in Austin. For 12 hours a week, the cost is $350. That’s only for Martin. I would have to find other arrangements for his sister or I could send her along for another $325. I’m a middle-class person with a nice job, but I can’t pay more than $3000 for even a terrific facility to watch my kids for 48 hours of work time. Same problem for sleepaway camp. I have found three camps that can not only accommodate Martin but also address his particular needs. They look incredible. The cheapest one is $1200 for 5 days. Is my child worth that? Yes. Is summer camp worth that? Unless it’s that awesome camp in Dirty Dancing and Patrick Swayze comes back to life to work there and look earnest, then the answer is no.
So I have a situation in which I must find a way to keep Martin very active and busy all summer long. Luckily, a friend from church volunteered to work as a part-time babysitter four mornings a week. I get the kids ready in the morning. She comes over, takes them on outings, and keeps them busy while I try to write a few pages, read a few chapters, or plan a few syllabi. I then take over and keep the kids busy in different ways until my husband comes home at dinnertime. This schedule is unrelenting. Saturdays and Sundays require even more effort. It is utterly exhausting.
In an unusual action, I recently wrote to my in-laws and asked them to come help us. My father-in-law drove 1400 miles in two days and arrived here yesterday. Just having one more adult around makes this constant activity a little easier. He took Martin to the museum. Then my husband led the outing for Legos. Later, I hustled the kids to the pool. I’m so lucky that my father-in-law has committed to staying for two weeks. Just knowing I won’t have so many hours each week in which I’m solely responsible for being the mother, camp director, tour guide, cook, and the psychiatric nurse is a huge relief.
If your kids have quality, affordable options for care over the summer, hug the people who do this work. We need more of them and more resources so that every kind of kid has similar options.