Summer camp season is drawing to a close at the Kennedy house. It’s time to put away the duffle bags and the Deep Woods Off towelettes.
Let’s see, so far this summer we’ve checked off Lego camp, soccer camp, lacrosse camp, overnight church camp and Vacation Bible School.
It has occurred to me that you could send your kids to VBS every week of the summer as long as you don’t mind denominational cross-contamination. I can see the T-shirts: “‘This Little Light of Mine’ World Tour 2014.”
Like a lot of two-career families, my wife and I stitch together several summer camps for our two boys, ages 7 and 12, as both enrichment activities and — yes, we’ll admit it — child care. As long as we are going to pay for adult supervision for the boys anyway, we might as well steer them toward stuff they like, right?
A couple of years ago, our older son opted out of summer baseball in part because he was tired of missing out on camps. Now, every time he goes away to an overnight camp for a week, he comes home with some new vocabulary words and a lot more swagger. If you ask me, there’s no better college prep than spending time out from under your parents’ roof.
Yes, camp season is winding down, but the curtain hasn’t completely fallen. For the last couple of years, as a culmination to their summer, a sort of back-to-school-blowout, the boys have packed off to Camp Lee-Lee.
My sister, Lee Ann — aka Aunt Lee-Lee — lives in suburban Nashville. She resides there with her two dogs, an arthritic lab named Fletcher and a gentle Great Dane named Mabel. Aunt Lee-Lee also has a backyard swimming pool and a deep affection for her two nephews, whom she unapologetically spoils rotten.
The other night, my 12-year-old son mused that his mom and I will probably enjoy our weeklong break from parenting during Camp Lee-Lee.
“Yeah, you and mommy can go bowling or go to the Jump Park,” added our 7-year-old.
Hmm. How do you break it to a second-grader that his parents aren’t likely to spend their first kid-free night in a year at the trampoline park?
A couple of weeks ago, my sister emailed the boys a questionnaire to help her plan the Camp Lee-Lee itinerary. Attached to the email was an activities list and instructions for the boys to each pick their top three choices. The options included: ropes course, horseback riding, laser tag, a minor-league baseball game, ice skating, canoeing, a visit to the zoo, Dave & Busters (video game emporium), go-carts, mini golf and a trampoline center.
Dang. In my entire childhood I think I got one Pepsi and nine holes of Putt Putt — total.
In a clever piece of diplomacy, my older son made his three selections from the Camp Lee-Lee activities menu, then insisted that his answers be kept secret from his younger brother. He has learned, through bitter experiences, that Little Brother has a deep contrarian streak. If, for example, you give the boys a choice between ice cream and river mud — and Big Brother chooses ice cream — then, Little Brother will insist that he prefers river mud.
With secret ballots cast, they both — astonishingly — made the same three choices: ice skating, the ropes course and the trampolining. If an activity doesn’t involved the possibility of an emergency room visit, they really aren’t interested.
We’ll pack the boys off to Camp Lee-Lee on Monday. Meanwhile, my wife and I are secretly planning Camp Mommy and Daddy.
“We can have a date every night,” my wife said, almost giddily.
Activities at Camp Mommy and Daddy might include: a movie that’s not brought to you by Disney or Pixar, dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t serve chicken tenders, and a full night’s sleep that doesn’t involve some little person showing up at your bedside at 3 a.m. with monster issues.
Officially, we’ll miss the boys. Off the record: Hey, hey. Bring it on.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.
Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...