Many of the realities of parenting have surprised me. I don’t recall anyone warning me about the need to plan our family’s summer no later than about mid-February. In the depths of winter, it’s tough to imagine hot days out of school, but I need to!
In our area, the hustle starts before the holidays. Newsletters roll out with dates about when registration for camps, sports, and programs will open. Some even close before the new year! New policies are announced. Some changes, like dropping mask requirements at the peak of Covid, might mean our family won’t return. The kids’ preferences and interests change too. It can be hard to predict what they’ll want to do and I’ve definitely made mistakes in this area (See: Summer of 2022 when I signed my 15 yr old up for forensic psychology camp and forgot he gags at the sight of blood).
This weekend, it was crunch time. Registration for one of my girls’ top summer wishes-zoo camp-opened up for members. In some ways, I feel like THIS is what I’m made for! I can channel all my planning, anxious anticipatory information seeking, and scheduling into something meaningful. As a disabled person, planning for something in the distant future isn’t really a unique experience. I ordered a new wheelchair about 5 months ago and we’re two months after it was expected to arrive. I’m decent at waiting.
This year’s result in the summer planning sprint are mixed. I encountered a hiccup with zoo camp registration. I tried to renew our membership but the servers were overwhelmed. The little hippo spun and spun, seemingly taunting me, before finally timing out. I tried a few more times and finally got through. By this time though, all the full-day camps for my youngest were full. I signed her up for a half-day camp later in the summer and added her to FOUR waitlists for the full-day camp that would coincide with her sister’s camp session. Fingers crossed! I also got them booked for a gymnastics camp and coordinated where we’ll stay and how I’ll work from the hotel while they do their thing. I will resist the urge to hide in the bushes of the gymnastics facility because it may or may not be hosted by one of my all-time favorite gymnasts. Tomorrow morning, the last of my registration-o-rama opens for farm camp. Lessons have been learned. I already renewed my membership with said farm and I’m stretching out my fingers (and more importantly-setting an early alarm). I can do it!
My son’s summer is easier (and weirder for me) to plan. He landed his first job last spring at our local amusement park and he wants to focus on working and saving money this summer. I signed him up for all things under the sun last summer, which had the unexpected effect of pushing him into employment.
All jokes aside, this challenge of parenting is well-matched with my strengths. I know I am incredibly privileged in so many ways though. I was caught off guard by how early preschool registrations opened for my oldest daughter. While I don’t fully understand it, I now know to plan for these things NOW. I knew this was coming and estimated prices for programs (which can also be shocking at first) so we budget for these costs long before they take place.
Primarily, we choose programs based on our kids’ interests. As those are developing though, I also think about experiences I want them to have that may be less accessible for us to provide on our own. This thinking is probably an example of internalized ableism because I don’t know many parents who can take their kids on a jungle tour but I sign my kids up for zoo camp still thinking that they’ll have opportunities that I can’t provide them.
Since my husband is our primary caregiver, if they can’t get into camp, they still have childcare. I wish there was more flexibility for all parents, especially for summer childcare. For parents with disabilities, it is essential that these summer programs:
-have accessible websites for registration
-answer as many questions important to our families in FAQ documents
-understand we may need some basic accommodations, especially if plans for pick-up and drop-off are not accessible.
If you are planning for summer too, solidarity! I’m sure it will be here before we know it.
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