hen we first moved to Teaneck over 22 years ago — 22 years???? Sorry, I just realized how old I am. Anyway, yes, so when we first moved here, son #1 was about 17 months old, and son #2 was about two months old. Somehow I got into a conversation with someone about schools and camps and that I had to sign my older one up for something already. What??? He just started putting two words together, I am already signing him up for school? Being sleep deprived and thinking, “How will he get into graduate school if he isn’t in school when he is two years old,” I made some calls. And I discovered that I was already closed out of the “cool” two-year-old program. I was distraught. Come to think of it, I guess I should blame that failure on the reason why son #1 isn’t in graduate school. But at least that one graduated college…sorry, I got a little distracted.
Okay, so he didn’t get into that program, but only because I didn’t sign up in time, not because of his superior intelligence. I was so bummed out that I didn’t even bother signing him up for a camp either. After all, I was so excited to be a mom, and my two boys were so adorable and perfectly well behaved — who am I kidding? — I had finally gotten them to nap at the same time and I wasn’t giving up that schedule for any school, camp, or anything else.
There, now you have the real reason why I kept my kids home for so long.
All around me, however, kids were going to backyard camps. I quickly learned that backyard camps were exactly what they sounded like. They were in someone’s backyard. Just like when people spoke of “basement programs” for school, they were in someone’s basement. I still recall the year when a disgruntled mother (we assume) hadn’t gotten her kid into some local program and there was a military raid on all of the illegal basement schools. It was horrifying. Programs were closed down, fines were issued (I am making that up for effect, I have no idea what the ramifications were), and mothers were forced to parent their small children unless they had babysitters on the payroll. It wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, some of these programs moved to “legal” facilities, or just reopened under the cover of darkness, and all returned to normal.
As we are all fully aware, nothing is normal now. Masks are the new accessory, which is great for those who have bad skin, bad noses, or bad teeth, and don’t want people to see them, and life as we knew it is on pause. But the one thing that has really hit home is the closing of camps. Not all camps, but some of the big ones.
All year long, parents wait anxiously to send their little miracles off to sleep away camp. Some do it for the kids, some do it for themselves. Whatever the reason, off they go. But not this year. So it was time to be creative. It’s time for the new and improved backyard camp.
If you look on Facebook, you’ll see dozens of different options. Camps that are for every age with every possible activity — hiking, tie-dying, swimming, any sport that requires a ball, makeup application, butter churning, bee-keeping. You name the activity, and for the right price, your child will be able to do that activity for five supervised hours. Temperature checks, social distancing, and masks are all a part of the fun.
It got me thinking that there should be backyard camp options for adults. After all, the past few months have been hard on us as well. Empty nesters have reopened their nests, parents have had to become teachers, those parents whose children never visited before had an actual excuse now. More cooking, more cleaning (unless your cleaning help was part of your quarantine protocol), and so on. What would the perfect adult backyard camp look like? How to use Zoom, how to keep the kitchen clean, how not to fight with your spouse in front of the kids who always seem to be around, temper control activities, and, the one that I need the most help with, words to use instead of the four letter ones. Is there a camp for that? Aside from an inpatient psych ward?
That is where the real money is, so if any of you industrious kids are thinking of starting a backyard camp, have your parents in mind. It would really benefit all of us.
Wishing good luck to all of those who have their kids home every day until the world opens again!
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is very sad that her nest is emptying again. Please come back!!!!