Why We’re Saying No to Summer Camp


I was talking to my sister on the phone the other day. We were exchanging reports on our respective weekends. Mine, a birthday party, soccer practice, some time at home and some time with friends. Hers, three birthday parties, two soccer practices, baseball, ballet and the list goes on.

Her two kids are in kindergarten and second grade. Mine are almost four and 15 months. So no question about it, we’re in very different places. But one of the many advantages of having a big sis is that I’m able to get a good sense of what’s coming down the road. And boy does that road look busy.

This conversation was my tipping point: no summer camp for us this year.

Last year I sent my daughter to camp mainly because I wanted to prepare her for preschool. The camp was hosted by the school so it was the perfect opportunity to introduce her to the place in a more casual setting. We did it for two weeks, and she really enjoyed herself. I almost signed her up again when I started to give the matter more thought. This past year alone our daughter was involved in preschool, Sunday school, ballet, soccer and French classes. It was a manageable schedule, it still left time for play dates though not as much time as we had been previously accustomed to. And her friends are all much busier now too, so finding common time when they could play was a new challenge for us this year. And we definitely all spent more time in the car.

For my daughter’s first three years we lived a very bohemian life. We sort of  went wherever the wind took us. The park. The zoo. Maybe a museum or the library. Many days we simply stayed home and passed the time doing crafts or simply playing. Though at the time I craved and often tried to impose more structure on our life, I now realize how fleeting and special that time really was. And I regret that my son will never really have those experiences as he will spend the better part of his babyhood strapped in his car seat en route to her activities.

But it doesn’t have to be that way—at least not 365 days of the year. And the summer is the perfect time to disentangle ourselves from the schedule and live life more free-form.

And knowing what’s ahead, once my daughter is in the school system and more involved in the community in general, it’s more important than ever to opt out and catch our breaths while we can. Reading this piece from Motherlode, The New York Times’ online parenting column, I can’t help but view this oncoming chapter of our lives with some apprehension. I thought I left the rat race behind when I decided to stay home and raise my kids.

I also realize that as a SAHM I have the luxury of choice here. And I am grateful for those choices, I just need to remind myself that this stuff, all of it, is a choice. We don’t have to do any of it. You can fall into a mindset that you’re selling your kid short, denying her a chance to become a prima ballerina if you don’t start ballet classes the moment she can walk. At the same time, I know that there’s real value in these activities, and I intend to sign her up for at least some of them again in the fall.

But for now, for the summer, we’re checking out. You can find us at the Maplewood Pool. Maybe.


  1. There seems to be this strange phenomenon of parents over-scheduling their kids and then lamenting about the over-scheduling. I didn’t even know they had summer camp for 3-year olds, and this little girl is busier than my high school student. Too much angst. If your kid wants to do an activity, do it. Otherwise don’t.

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