Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Being a parent can make you crazy

For the past four years, I have been proud to send my stepson to summer camp.

It's a day camp put on by the city of Santa Cruz, and it's awesome. Kids are filtered into age-specific camp-groups at a local park. They go on field trips just about every day, to the beach once a week, and do umpteen arts-and-crafts.

There's a low ratio of campers to counselors, and they used to take the kids to swimming lessons (before the budget cuts that forced Parks & Rec to sell the local pool).

The tiny issue I had with this camp is that it ran us about $600/month. And you had to register/pay for it in April, or it would fill up.

Shockingly, this year, we just didn't have an extra $600 lying around. (Heck, we don't have an extra $40 lying around right now!) As the deadline to register for camp grew closer and closer, I spent more and more wee hours lying awake, listening to this thought cycle:

We have to send him to this camp.

There's no way we can send him to this camp.

You see how each thought leads to the other, but neither is really good at problem-solving?

Finally, one week away from Deadline, I remembered that the Santa Cruz Boys & Girls Club also ran a summer camp. My printer recommended it to me, quite enthusiastically.

But these are my memories from my tenure at the Boys & Girls Club:
  • Watching seven episodes of Gilliagan's Island in a row, followed by four I Love Lucys.
  • Sneaking off campus to buy candy at the local liquor store.
  • Sneaking off campus to what I thought was my cousin's friend's house, but really going to my cousin's first gang fight.
And then I remembered my sister's summer working at a different Boys & Girls Club. She told me one day about having to restrain a kid who took a chain off a door, wrapped it around his fist, and threatened to beat up another kid.

For two days, the 3 a.m. thought-cycle shifted to this:

We can afford the Boys & Girls Club.

There's no way I can send him to the Boys & Girls Club.

Again, not helpful.

Against my better judgement, I visited the Santa Cruz' Boys & Girls Club website, and discovered that membership is a whopping $15/year. And that summer camp costs $40/week.

That's five weeks of camp for $200, as opposed to four weeks for $600.


The club is also open during his spring break, which typically coincides with no other local camps or schools.


Then I read the outline of activities available at the club:
  • The Arts: Fine arts, crafts, woodworking, movie making, newspaper club, music classes, photography and magazine club.
  • Health and Life Skills: Cooking and nutrition classes, anger management workshops, swim lessons, SMART Moves and SMART Girls, Environmental Club, recycling and conservation
  • Sports, Fitness and Recreation: Basketball Leagues, Karate Classes, Recreational Swims, Hockey Team, Aquatics Team, Camping, Hiking, Fishing Club, Special Events and Field Trips.
What the heck? The SoCal B&GC of my youth had three activities: TV, Bumper Pool, and stealing wires from the electrical box outside to make bracelets. Field trips were either to the movie room to watch such classics as "Arachnophobia" or to go see your cousin get beat up by some chick.

I read a little deeper, and found out about music lessons, a computer animation program and free swim time in their indoor heated pool. So I decided to take a tour and saw the library, aquatics center, full gymnasium, wood shop/crafts room, music room and cafe.

I saw that kids are now issued an ID card that gets scanned when they enter the club, when they enter and leave each activity area and when they leave.

I saw that the club is located about a block from my favorite public library.

I heard about weekly trips to the beach, and other outings to be determined.

Finally, my 3 a.m. thought cycle got productive:

The Boys & Girls Club sounds awesome.

It's got a lot more activities than the other camp.

We can afford it.

Why am I still thinking about this?

This summer, my stepson will join the thousands (millions?) of Boys & Girls Club alumni. And if I could, I'd join too!
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