BOSTON — I know that it is June and we're all gearing up for our summer activities, but just go back to January with me for one moment.
I had made it through the holidays. But as I picked the tinsel off the living room rug, my thoughts were already desperately racing ahead to summer.
As a twenty-something mom flying solo, 1,000 miles from the nearest family member, I've learned that long-range planning is indispensible. With no copilot to hand parenting duties off to, there's very little room for error.
So, what am I going to do with my 11-year-old daughter? How can I give Whitney an enriching and relaxing summer experience while I work and continue my own education? And, how am I going to pay for it?
Thankfully, many parenting publications and Sunday newspaper magazines were already running their summer camp directories back when the maple outside our apartment building was still a gray skeleton.
While some of the myriad day camps offered the traditional summer schedule of 9 a.m.-to-12 p.m. (I've yet to meet a family on this schedule), I was pleasantly surprised that many summer camps offered scheduled activities that matched the needs of working parents. Several programs provided extended-day activities that would allow the children to stay from 8 a.m to 6 p.m., if necessary. That's great for those parents who work from 9 to 5. But my workday starts at 8 a.m.
That's why I start in January.
Fortunately, the solutions are coming - and from a variety of unexpected resources.
What's working for me is constant prayer, a few loyal friends, church members, family, and tons of flexibility.
Other parents have offered to pick Whitney up or drop her off in a pinch. I've offered to do the same for their children. Two camps are allowing me to split the tuition into smaller payments over a longer period of time. Whitney received a partial scholarship to a computer camp based - pardon me for a moment of parental pride - solely on an essay that she wrote. She will also benefit from a scholarship fund provided to Sunday School students in our church.
As it stands now, Whitney will be spending the first three weeks of her summer at an overnight camp in Maine. Then, two weeks at a day camp hosted by Wentworth Institute of Technology, which focuses on science and engineering. That will be followed by one week of computer camp at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. daily, with the option to stay overnight.
Truth is, Whitney would rather spend the entire summer in Maine. "This summer will make you into a well-rounded person. Other children would love to have these opportunities," I say. "Uh-huh, OK, Mom." My promise to visit Maine often, and the anticipation of learning to make a screen saver at computer camp, however, are helping her warm up to her summer schedule.
That's six weeks covered, just two to go.
I could take a couple of weeks of vacation. Maybe we could go to parent/child weekend at NASA's Space Camp in Florida and on the drive there - start planning for the Christmas holidays!
Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.