Wait, I was supposed to register my kids for summer camp in January?

My twins started Kindergarten last year. It was a breath of fresh air for our wallets, which had suffered from the long-term effects of double infant daycare, followed by double toddler daycare, followed by double preschool for over five years. (No, despite the common twin joke, there was no buy one, get one free.) But like all milestones with kids, this one came with a new challenge no one prepared us for: what are we supposed to do with them over the summer?

The only distinction daycare had made around the summer was the extra activity fee that I hope went to the teachers for having to wrangle a classroom full of wiggly kids out of wet swimsuits after splash day, and the annual increase in tuition that coincided with the new school year. Apart from splash day, a week at daycare during the summer was no different than any other week. You pay, you stay.

Except now we’re not paying, and the school year is ending right before Memorial Day. Flashy emails began rolling in from every activity our kids have ever done, starting in January. Everyone was hosting a summer camp: their itty bitty ballet studio, their youth soccer club, their school, our family gym, even the nature center where we’ve been members since the twins could walk. (It’s called Camp Wildflower – how freaking cute is that?)

My husband and I dutifully forwarded each other every promotional email for summer camp we received. This is great! We have plenty of options! we, in our naivete, said to each other. But did we really have to make a call on it now? It’s January! How are we supposed to even think about summer camp when there’s still snow on the ground?! (Yes, we said this to each other on the one day in Texas where there was snow on the ground.)

We finally sat down to look at our options during Spring Break, after struggling to find something for our kids to do for one week. How were we going to handle twelve?! We worked our way down the list.

  • Soccer club: The only location we were willing to drive to hosts camp for just 2 weeks, and they’re not even consecutive weeks; it’s the first week in June and the last week in July. And it’s only from 8am ‘til noon. Parents only work half days during the summer, right? And it’s $200 per kid per week. But hey, they get a “free” t-shirt!
  • Dance studio: Hosts camp for 7 consecutive weeks with a different theme each week. And it’s a full day… mostly. 8:30-3:30 is doable with two parents (sorry, single moms and dads), especially for the completely reasonable price of $395 per kid per week, except during “Pizza and Pliés” and “Cupcakes and Cartwheels” weeks, where the extra “supply fee” ups it to $420. Never mind, Cupcakes and Cartwheels week is full already, so we’ll have to figure something else out. We could hire Mary Freaking Poppins for $840 a week.
  • School: For Kindergarten, they’re offering a whopping five days of baseball camp. And the day ends at 12:30. But hey, it’s only $175 per kid! Good luck figuring out the other 55 days. And the second half of these five days.
  • The gym: Finally! Somewhere that has something for the full 12 weeks of summer! And an innovative pricing model where they charge by the day, starting at $53 per child per day (if you want to drop them off early, pick them up late, or feed them a nutritious lunch from the café, be prepared to cough up some more). Only some of the weeks still have spots available, and since people are paying by the day, some days of those available weeks are gone already.
  • Camp Wildflower: 8 weeks, all of June and July, for $290 a week (discounted from $350 since we’re members!) per child. Outdoor fun in the blazing hot sun from 9-3. Or it could be, if it weren’t completely sold out already, which it is. You snooze, you lose.

Did I mention that for all of the above, we had to register for each week individually (and pick individual days for the gym)? That’s 24 registration forms.

I can barely find my glasses and remember all the steps involved in making a pot of coffee most mornings. I am fifty-fifty at putting my underwear on inside out. How am I supposed to spend 12 weeks remembering that they’re at camp A this week and camp B next week and this week ends at noon but next week ends at 3, and we didn’t find anything for the week after that? Are working parents supposed to cobble together a week here and a week there (because I certainly can’t swing 12 consecutive weeks of PTO every year) and a half day here and a full day there for an entire summer?

Are we supposed to shell out a year’s worth of car payments at the same time we’re getting stuff together to do our taxes, since these summer camps all require payment in full at the time of enrollment to hold their spot? Or would it just be more economical to pack up and move to Japan or Australia where they have year-round school until our kids are old enough to hang out at the library and play Nintendo all summer like I did when I was a 90s latchkey kid?

At least for this year, we’re opting out of summer camp drama. The twins are going to spend 11 of the 12 weeks of summer at their old daycare, where we’ll complete two novel-length registration forms, pay by the week, and happily fork over the splash day surcharge. Unlike Kindergarten, they’ll get to be the cool older kids for a couple months. And next January, when it’s time to patch together weeks of summer camp, I’ll be ready (hopefully my wallet will be, too). That or I’ll quit my job and start my own summer program for just $3000 per kid for the whole summer: Laundry Camp!

by kellyhitchcock

Kelly I. Hitchcock is a fiction author, humorist, and poet in Austin, Texas. She has published several poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction works in literary journals, and is the author of the coming-of-age novel The Redheaded Stepchild and the short story collection Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. Her newest novel, Community Klepto, released June 2022, courtesy of She Writes Press and was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal from the Eric Hoffer Awards, a finalist in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards, and the Texas winner for the Indie Author Project. She is world-renowned among a growing readership of several folks. She is an editorial contributor to Austin Moms and Zibby Mag.

Raised by a single father in the small town of Buffalo, Missouri, Kelly has fond memories of life being broke as shit in the Ozarks that strongly influence her writing and way of life. She’s a graduate of Missouri State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. She has eight-year-old identical twins and a full-time job, so writing and picking up LEGO are the only other things she can devote herself to.