The Sport of Competitive Parenting
To Camp or Not to Camp
Summer camps. I knew nothing about summer camps until my oldest son Sean was turning 3. Someone mentioned it to me, asked if I signed him up for any. I was stumped. Camp? For a 3-year-old? I had no idea this was a thing. I thought camps were for sleeping over when they’re older. So I did some online research, found some great camp offerings through our town’s rec center, and armed with a birth certificate and a credit card I went. It was early March. I walked in, full of the innocent anticipation of allowing my son the ability to jump and play and sing each morning for a week over the summer in a fun little program that included music, art and movement.
I was told very politely that summer camp registration takes place on a certain morning in February. Most of the popular camps (there are only a handful for my son’s age group) are completely full within an hour or two of registration opening…in February. Better luck next year. February – I am running to the store hoping I can find my child Valentine’s to bring into class that aren’t lame cat stickers (like the first year I forgot kids exchange Valentine’s with their class), I’m not usually thinking about summer in February.
Competitive Parenting Commences
Though I swore I would never be that mom, I was about to fully immerse myself into the intense sport of competitive parenting. Next year…next year I would be first! Next year I would make sure our family had a rec center account. I would plot out classes and class numbers and times and dates and alternative dates and I would treat this like anything else I threw myself into. This would not beat me.
Year 2 came, I knew the date and time, I had myself logged into the website 20 minutes ahead, victory was mine. I signed my son up for a few camps over the summer. I was proud. I even found a soccer camp and a camp for little chefs at the children’s museum. Win, win, and win.
I won’t get into my son’s actual experience at camps, and why all my best efforts resulted in near failure. That can be found in an upcoming post. But it’s now February 2018, and it’s time to begin the process again, year 3.
This year, the brochure came out and so did my sharpie. I starred and circled and cross-checked dates to make sure I wasn’t over enrolling him or putting him in back to back weeks. One week a month seems to fit our laid back summer style. My younger son was old enough for two toddler music camps, one of which he could take with big bro, super exciting. I learned some lessons last year and checked with a few of my son’s friend’s parents to see if they were enrolling in any specific camps.
2018 – Camp Enrollment Day Arrives
At 8 am when registration opened, I was online. I was entering program codes and agreeing to terms and conditions like a seasoned professional. No I don’t hold you responsible for my child’s decision to jump off the roof. Yes I understand my $50 is non refundable. No I don’t expect you to provide him with a snack. Yes I know you start at 9 am sharp each day. I was clicking away like a ticket agent behind the desk at the airport when the website crashed.
We parents are told a time and a date. We are told to know our courses ahead of time and be prepared with second choices. We have our credit card ready and we are literally competing with each other to spend money sending our kids for a few hours of structured play. (Sorry, I mean sending them for exceptionally fulfilling and enriching activities without which they will no doubt be boring and unhappy adults).
I make a call…in my best “I’m so so annoyed that I can’t check this off my to do list but I’m going to cover it up with extra sugary sweetness” voice, I mention that I’m trying to sign my child up for camps but the website is down. I’m cut off with “they’re working on it”. I happily say, “oh great, thanks so much, just curious if my second son is enrolled in our family’s account and if not, will I be able to sign him up?” to which I’m told no, she has to do that over the phone but she has 25 people standing in front of her trying to enroll so I will need to call back.
I keep trying the website. There is a blank screen. I call back when she suggested, she enrolls my second son and tells me the website is up again. It’s not. I tell her “Oh, that’s strange I still can’t get in” and she said it’s probably because so many people are tying to enroll. Now in my limited computer knowledge this indicates that it’s kind of down still. If the people trying to access a website can’t because too many people are trying and it locks it up, it seems to me that the website is not working. But what do I know?
Dad For The Win
My husband Matt, who was now brewing some coffee and preparing to leave to go physically stand in line to sign them up for two weeks of summer camp asked me if I knew how many camps he attended in his childhood. Zero. The (predictable) answer was zero. He was reminding me (in all of my ranting over this website having ONE busy day a year, just one, and it couldn’t cooperate), that this is a “nice to have”, not a “must have” for our kids. We could entertain them in a variety of other ways and allow them plenty of other opportunities for learning and socializing and fun.
But my son, who prefers one on one interactions with peers and shies away from big group activities, wanted to go to super-hero camp. And I wanted this to go smoothly so I could just get something accomplished and cross it off and move on to the laundry sitting in the washer and the groceries that apparently up and left my fridge leaving no survivors.
While standing in line, Matt texted me that the rumor among the competition (I mean the other lovely suburban moms and dads) was that the website was down but a special link via the town’s Facebook site would actually get us through to register.
I mean, this level of commitment and competition could rival my entry into law school. This folks, is competitive parenting 2018 version. And much to my dismay, I was now a part of it.
I get to the super secret link, I login, and my younger son misses the age deadline to join his big bro in “jumpnastics” camp by 9 days. The website would not let me register him because he will be 2 1/2 years old 9 days after the cut off.
Matt, who is still waiting to hear from me that we are confirmed and registered, continues to wait and the lovely person behind the desk was able to override the computer system and overlook our 9 day shortcoming. Mission accomplished. Please return to our regularly scheduled programming of critiquing food labels, obsessing over screen time, wondering if my level of discipline falls into the category of too easy or too tough and hoping organic grass-fed milk and organic free range eggs are really good enough or if I ruined it with the accompanying peanut butter topped Eggo waffles anyway.
Is this a win? I’m not sure. My morning didn’t need this level of annoyance. The woman on the phone was fairly rude which was unnecessary. My husband had to go stand in line when he had planned to treat himself to a well-deserved run on the beach with our dog. I certainly didn’t feel like I won this one. There would be no gold, silver or bronze for me. Perhaps I’ll get a certificate of participation that I can frame, which will serve as a daily reminder that next year, armed (in person) with coffee and determination, the gold is mine.