“Which camp will your daughter go to this summer?” my friend asked me about a week ago. “In this economy?” I replied.
“We’re doing Mom Camp this summer!”
In defiance of strict San Francisco parent law my family eschewed children’s day camps this summer season in favor of something radical and exhausting. Entertaining the kids my own damn self.
I’m fortunate enough to not need the camps for childcare. I work from home, half-time. I set my own schedule and bill the hours when I’m done. I’m lucky in that, in these tight fiscal times, I can make the choice to take care of my kids during the day and hit the grindstone during naptime, TV time, and after bedtime. This frees up my money to pay for things like food and electricity instead of one of the many excellent Bay Area specialty camps, such as (and I’m not kidding here) Shark Fishing Camp.
So far we’re having a fabulous time. Such a good time, in fact, that I’d love to spread the word on my Mom Camp highlights. If you live in the Bay Area feel free to copy these ideas directly. And if you live far away, I am sure you are sharp and clever enough to modify this stuff to create your very own Mom or Dad Camp that works with your city or town.
I’ve found it best to have themes. Starting with some San Francisco basics.
Tourist for a Day. Register ahead of time with the Pier 39 local special to get stuff like free parking or food for kids. Arrive early to hook up with the crowds on east coast time and check out the sea lions, the carousel, and (for toddlers who are still not too jaded to freak out over all things transport-related) the many varieties of boat going bye-bye. Trek over to Musee Mechanique and entertain the kids (while creeping out adults) with the likes of Laughing Sal and other Victorian-era nickelodeon machines. Be sure to avoid the Opium Den puppet show or you’ll have some serious explaining to do.
Scavenger Hunt Day. Make a list and check it twice. Then head out to a unique neighborhood like Chinatown or Japantown to forage for items of interest (waving kitty, fortune cookie factory, etc.). Pop some pics of the stuff with your phone, making sure to have a kid pose in front of each one for proof of scavenger hunt success.
Explore A New Neighborhood Day. We applied this one to West Portal but it works anywhere as long as you plunge yourself into a certain part of town with total commitment. We started our neighborhood quest at the playground above the awesome tunnel where MUNI trains exit the subway to go above ground (see above note about toddlers and things that go bye-bye). Then we hit the library for your typical screeching and ripping things off of the shelves. After a lovely stroll down the sunny main street we took a break for gelato at a hip new shop that mainly sells the trendy sour yogurt everyone’s getting all tarted up about. A great Mom Camp day except for the fact that the yogurt/gelato shop’s sullen teenage employees played eff-word laden gangsta rap the whole time (who’s got two thumbs and is gettin’ old? This gal!) And they didn’t have recycling. Seriously? No recycling bins in a restaurant in San Francisco. Please! They practically come into your kitchen and rinse the damn cans for you.
Field trip day. Last week we trekked across the Bay Bridge to Children’s Fairyland in Oakland. Next up is a voyage down the coast to a goat farm in Half Moon Bay. I don’t need to tell you experienced moms and dads out there to plan well for rain contingencies, bring loads of snacks, and offer plenty of time for rest and unstructured play breaks on such outings.
But I will let you in on the best Mom Camp secret I have yet to discover.
Taco Tuesdays at Park Chalet. Shhh! This is between us, but the best way to end a day of Mom Camp is to find a kid-friendly happy hour. I’ve found that the outdoor Taco Tuesdays at this charming little beachside restaurant offer the kids a final chance to run off some steam while the parents get to mingle over a cold one with our fellow camp counselors.
If you don’t live near such a miraculous venue, I advise you to invite your friends over around 4:30pm, bust out some cheap, kid-friendly hors d’oeuvres and grow your own Taco Tuesday. It makes being Mom Camp Director worth it.
I also realized it was quite worth it when my six-year-old daughter blurted out in the car last night, “Aren’t we having the best summer ever, Mom?”
We sure are, Little Camper, we sure are.