Next Stop: Batty

Hangin' by a thread, here. I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Howard County Summer Camp Mania

Oh yeah. I got sucked in. But good.

Howard County summer camp registration was February 2. That means I needed to be on the web typing furiously at 12:01 AM, or all the good spots would go to the ubermommies, and their kids would be better than mine. And what would happen if my girls didn't get into some sort of structured summer activity? Listen, if you need to ask that question, then I don't even know where to begin with you. I mean, hello? Life Enriching Experiences? If our kids don't get those amidst the deafening din of a commandeered high school cafeteria in the middle of July while wearing special-issue t-shirts and My Name Is... stickers, applying gloppy paint to papier mache bunnies under the direction of a perky pimple-faced counselor named Britany, then WHERE DO WE EXPECT THE SUMMER ENRICHMENT TO HAPPEN?

My friend, Katherine, tried to save me. After I scoured the camp description booklet (39 pages of fun, fun, fun) for the sessions which would really turn my kids' lives around, I called to give her a head's up on what I considered to be the best offerings for 2006. This was a true gift: best camps, bar none, offered to Katherine and her boys just in time for registration -- on a plate with fries on the side. But was Katherine grateful? No. She called my Chesapeake Bay selection contrived. Contrived!

"But, listen to this," I said, "'Kids will go tonging, feed algae to an oyster, dress like a waterman, and catch and weigh a rockfish.'"

"Where?" she replied dryly in that I'm-a-mother-with-integrity-and-I-don't-need-camp kind of a way.

"At Town Center Middle School," I reported, "Says here, 'science lab.'" So there! Science lab. Science. Science in the summer. Hey, if Katherine doesn't recognize a life enriching experience when someone hands it to her ON A PLATE, then that's on her. My kids'll be curing cancer someday with all their extracurricular science background. Hers will be...well...NOT doing that.

"Why don't we just pack a cooler and some fishing rods, and take them to the Bay one day? Catch some oysters. Meet some watermen," she offered.

Okay forget Katherine. I don't even really like her. She's too good for summer camp, wants authentic experiences for her kids, lah-dee-dah.

Hey, at least my motivation is good! I'm just trying to find some cool stuff for my kids to do. Most of the ubermommies worked themselves into a total tizzy weeks before registration, whining to each other about what were they gonna do with the kids all summer? Yeah. A lot of these people are just looking for ways to get their children OUT OF THE HOUSE. Not me! I want to educate mine (okay, I guess there's a small part of me that wants to avoid ripping them limb from limb by Labor Day, but I'm not, like, in a panic about it or anything).

So there I was, CALMLY staring at the registration website, fingers nimble, camp selection marked in red in my dogeared booklet, waiting for that digital clock to tick over to 12:01. God, I'm good.

By 12:09, the system was all clogged up. As I stared at the little "page loading" hourglass, I couldn't help but imagine all the other women who had waited up until midnight ON A TUESDAY, IN FEBRUARY to do this. Women by the hundreds, crazed by a. the need to raise uberkids or b. the need to have a kid-free summer. Was I one of them? Exhibit a: me and my computer, 12:09 AM, slogging through an interminably slow registration process just to get the "Craft It!" camp from 9 to noon August 7 through 11. Damn. If that ain't the dark side, I don't know what is.

Got to bed at 1:22 AM, feeling like an uberidiot. Woke Steve up to let him know which camps I had gotten. He likes to be kept informed. He was very appreciative and impressed that I stayed up until 1:22 ensuring a rich and varied summer for our two girls. He was so glad I wasn't like those slackers who decided to deal with it later and went to bed. He didn't say this stuff, but he was thinking it.

The next morning at approximately 10:17 AM, the entire Howard County Parks and Rec website CRASHED due to the morning wave of crazy people like yours truly. And then the trouble really began. The moms got ugly, like in the 80's when you told Santa you had to have a Cabbage Patch doll with red hair, green eyes, and one dimple, and there was resulting yuletide bloodshed at Toys R Us. Back in Howard County, the poor woman at the parks and rec office had to endure the entitled rants of streams of women who probably should have stayed with their legal careers or started on meds -- one or the other.

That afternoon, I was talking to my semi-sane friend, Denise, about the whole camp thing. Feeling cheap and sheepish, I announced, "Next year, I'm not even doing this camp rat race. We'll just do things on our own. Maybe we'll go to the Bay one day and, you know, bring a cooler and stuff. Taylor's almost ready for sleep-away camp, anyway, which I do think is a good experience. Maybe we'll just do an occasional Girl Scout Camp from here on out."

"Good luck," Denise said, "People have to camp out the night before to get slots in the Girl Scout camps around here."

I kid you not.


At 11:11 AM, Blogger Shelley said...

Next year, let's trade weeks of Auntie Camp. Enriching, spaces pre-reserved and guaranteed, and CHEAP!

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

I was thinking that -- how did you know?

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Betsy said...

Wow - my kids did Grandma camp for a month two summers ago. They came back all happy that they'd learned how to make their beds, believe it or not...!

(We're not too big on bed-making here.)


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