Illustration By Kristina Micotti
For the longest time, I avoided getting caught up in the Enrich-a-Thon that modern middle-class parenting has become.
As I listened to other parents griping about shuttling their kids from dance to baseball to capoeira to Minecraft-coding camp in their desperately uncool minivans (sorry, Odyssey drivers: yes, it is a minivan), I’d say to myself with a smug grin, “Not my kids. Mine will get by on their charm and fine conversational skills honed over a home-cooked, balanced dinner.”
Of course, with their peers being completely clueless about world politics and social justice, pretty soon Ben and Georgia were clamoring to try out some of the things other kids were doing. Fair enough, we said, but each kid was STRICTLY LIMITED to one activity at a time.
Then, before we knew it, Greg and I were splitting up so one of us could go watch Ben’s baseball game while the other whisked Georgia from her softball game to her vocals lesson, followed immediately by her guitar lesson.
By the time we all sat down to taco shop takeout, everyone was exhausted and cranky, and we all performed poorly on the conversation-skills front. (But at least we weren’t in a minivan!)
So much of parenting is doing exactly what you vowed you never would. But it’s also about deciding what’s worth struggling for. Do you take the baby to the ER in the middle of the night or wait for the fever to break? Do you let your kid blow his big class project to impart the perils of procrastinating or stay up late helping cut out cardboard figures for a diorama? Are the daycare tantrums signs that your toddler’s a budding sociopath or is it just a phase? I’m sure it’ll all turn out fine, you’ll think. Then, in the middle of the night: JEFFREY DAHMER’S MOM PROBABLY THOUGHT BURNING FLIES IN A CANDLE WAS “JUST A BOY THING.”
This summer, our big dilemma was whether to give in to the kids’ desire to stay home all season. On one hand, staying home sounds like a recipe for way too much TV and nagging me to take them to the pool when I have to work.
But part of me has always wondered if, by always having a camp with structured activities, constant supervision, and rules, they’ve missed out on that special summer boredom that leads to great adventures (and, in my case, a few rounds of stitches).
Both kids also asked if they could attend wildly expensive camps that relate to their respective passions—Ben to a UCSD video game development camp and Georgia to an acting camp.
Can today’s kids have unstructured fun? Is spending what was once my monthly rent on a week of camp bound to disappoint?
The experiment starts this month, after our family vacation. They will each do one week of camp. Ben is doing Digital Media Academy, and Georgia is doing Theater Arts School of San Diego. The rest of summer is going to be boredom city. I’ll let you know the results. And please: If I reveal that I’ve purchased a minivan, send help.