Masters Degree for Camp

This morning I had the same conversation, yet again, with another working Mom. Did you work out EVERY week for camp? For multiple children? Are they happy?

Truth be known, I long for Pine Grove Camp for my children. I started in 2nd grade at the Jamesburg campus (which now is an adult community - the Wall campus doesn't have the same rustic feeling), I think, and my sister must have started in kindergarten. This wasn't a specialty camp, religious camp or luxurious camp. But it was bona fide camp. There was bug juice for lunch (which was always hot, always included and generally edible). Although I never drank it, it certainly symbolized camp. We had bunks for our stuff - and there were some sleepover bunks that we used when we were older. There were fields for softball, kickball, dodgeball. I think there were basketball courts for people who played that (I think they were on the "boys camp" side...I didn't play basketball).

The structures were wooden or canvas. The playhouse was my second home - but I enjoyed the dance and gymnastics studios too. We did two musicals a year plus a talent show. I know my friends liked arts and crafts and ceramics. Science too. We had electives and we had group activities. We played intramural sport competitions with other camps.

And there was the waterfront. We had multiple pools and the lake. You had to pass a swim test to go boating or even swim in the deep-end. While we didn't have waterskiing (small lake), we did have canoeing, kayaking and row boating. We had swim lessons every day and we had free swim every day.

We left home, picked up by a small van bus, around 7:15 in the morning and got home after 5:30. We slept on the bus. Or we sang. Or we argued. The camp was only 40 minutes away...but we were always the first pickup/last drop off. And I went until I was 16. My best friends growing up were my friends from camp.

Fast forward 20+ years and I'm a parent of three great kids. Two of whom are in the prime zone to go to day camp. We live in Northern California, not New Jersey. I'm not sure what camp is like in New Jersey, but in the Bay Area, it requires a working parent to manage a complex spreadsheet of weekly/monthly camps with all sorts of varied deadlines for "applications" and commitments. We cannot have an empty week - because that means someone is taking off from work (which we do over the summer to be together and vacation) or someone is getting paid to recreate camp for our kids.

First - you have to know the deadlines of the camps you want. The community centers have great camps...and late sign ups. The private camps are much earlier. There really isn't day camp like Pine Grove - except north of Orinda and they won't bus from the Peninsula. Few camps start as soon as school is out. Few camps go until school starts...plan vacations accordingly! Second - you most consider drop-off and pick-up times, location, traffic and carpool probability. A few camps have aftercare for working parents...but mostly, you have to figure out if it is physically possible, with your work and parenting obligations, to get the kids to camp. Ideally they go to the same camp...but most of the parents I talk to cannot force this to happen - arg.

I probably spend about 30 hours researching, planning, coordinating and applying to camp. Another 10 hours ensuring everyone is paid, carpools are finalized and every version of the medical report is completed by the doctor.

The kids are having a great summer. But they're not at any camp long enough to make friends. So, we're looking back east for summer long sleep away camp. I do wish I could find Pine Grove, with busing, in the Bay Area. (And for all of you PJCC camp parents - it's a great camp...but it's where they go to school and the kids deserve some time off, no lake and gorgeous - but not rustic.)