Anyone out there feeling the tremors of upheaval as summer approaches? Like the whole world runs in a careful balance until June and then, WHAM-O! SUMMER! OK, well, I confess, I'm feeling the tremors coming.
I have a 15-year-old daughter. Every summer since she was 2-years-old, when I resumed working full-time, we've been working out summer plans. Sometimes things are perfect, other times it's been a headache beyond recognition. To cut to the chase, when all is said and done and when the school year begins again in the fall, I am the happiest one of all because it means things fall back into a normal flow of things.
We've done it all. She's traveled to see her grandparents and other family out of state. She's done day camp and overnight camp. There have been one-day programs at the library and the art museum and the science museum. Cooking classes, sports lessons, theater in the park. You name it, we've tried it. I've seen her jubilantly board a bus that carried her away for a 7-day journey without so much as a hint of hesitation. I've also seen her throw a full out, full-body temper tantrum that lasted all morning and the rest of the day because she did NOT want to go to the lake that she begged me for weeks to let her go to with her friends.
The current school year ends in less than three weeks. We are still working out my daughter's summer plans. Granted, at the age she is now, she could sit at home and watch reality shows and Oprah all summer, munching on potato chips and downing Mountain Dew after Mountain Dew. But that wouldn't make me a good mom, see. She has to do things that are productive, character building, and fruitful. (a-HEM.) So on the docket are the following activities: swim team pre-season training, driving school, and fine arts camp. Seems simple enough, right? Just narrow down the choices, pick the options that fit into a schedule, and then make the necessary arrangements. Oh, if only it were so simple. Let's start with swim practice.
Swimming is a sport of heavy commitment and consistent practice. That being said, my daughter hasn't been in the pool for over 6 months. She has about three local options for daily practice during the summer and she could also join the all-city water polo team for their summer season. The glitch? My daughter's father scheduled their family vacation through the first week of the summer. Since this is the first week of practice, it would mean the girl would be behind when she finally did return from vacation and show up for practice. The coaches frown on such a thing. So she's settled for the less rigorous practice at a pool farther from the house that she can start later in the summer.
Then there's driving school. This being my oldest child, I had no idea what a pain it was to get a driver's permit in Michigan. In order to get a driver's license when I was a kid, I went down to the appropriate office the Saturday morning after my 15th birthday, took a written test, and got a permit to drive with an adult for a year. No driver's ed required. But this is not the case in Michigan. The requirements to get a driver's license are convoluted at best, not the least of which is mandatory driver's education. It's not offered through the state or the public school, though; you have to find a private company that does it. AND PAY THEM to do it. Wha...? What's more, the classes are two hours a day, every weekday, for a consecutive two and a half weeks. This essentially means if your kid does anything extra outside of school, it's impossible for them to go through the class during the school year. Needless to say, I've debated many times whether she really needs to learn how to drive at all...
And then there's fine arts, the mother of all expensive summer activity options. Last year, my daughter went to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. She loved it. She adored it. She had no idea how much it cost. Even with a scholarship last year, we spent over $1000 for the 11 days she spent there. I know, that's not a lot when you're talking about overnight fine arts camp, but when you're talking about money, that's a lot of it. She got a couple scholarships again this year, but we were still looking at big bucks out of pocket in order for her go again. And in case you didn't realize it yet, when is she supposed to find time to go to overnight camp when she's also got swim team practice and driver's ed going on? So we switched gears and thought she could participate in a local summer stock group that puts on a musical every summer. Three weeks, six hours a day, two performances at the end. Then I saw the price tag - $750 + membership fees and materials fees. Wow. That's a lot of money just so you can be in a musical. Finally, in the 11th hour, her school orchestra conductor announced last week that the orchestra students are able to go to Interlochen with one of the other city's orchestras in August for a week. They would get to work together, do workshops, and basically prep for the next school year together. $340. Better than the previous two options. They would arrive back in town late on a Monday night, the Monday of the first day of regular season practice for swim team. So it's off the bus from orchestra camp at midnight, go to bed, and up at 6a the next morning for swim practice.
Oh, and one more thing. There's a new baby girl due in our family in August. I'm nervous because I don't know when to expect my obstetrician to say, "that baby must come out NOW." (For the whole story, you can check out my personal blog.) I get the bad feeling that my daughter is going to be off in the north of Michigan at Interlochen, playing her heart out on her viola...and miss the day when her sister is born. But I can't bring myself to tell her she just has to stay home and miss out on Interlochen.
It's exhausting. I really don't consider myself one of those parents who over-schedules and spoils my kid. She's done things that she wanted to do, and I've tried to give her as much down time as a kid needs, just to read and play and enjoy herself. Still, it's clear to me that life is getting faster and faster for her as she ages, just as it does for all of us. Next year she wants to have a summer job. And either I'm ferrying her to and from work...or she'll need a driver's license...oh my.