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Devlyn Brooks, Published May 18 2010

Parenting Perspectives: Trying to be a happy camper

Summer camps for kids have become as ubiquitous as misbehaved parents at sporting events.

In recent months, I have been bombarded with mailings, e-mails and literature that tout camps from one end of the summer to the other, regarding academics to sports to arts.

If I chose to do so – and took on a second job – I could book the kids in a camp from the last day of school till Labor Day weekend. I could set the parenting autopilot button and let the boys become wards of the camp instructors.

As I was hitting the enter button to send off the electronic registration and payment for another of my sons’ summer camps, I wondered, “When did we begin to think that our kids’ summers had to be managed to the millisecond?”

I certainly don’t remember camp being an option. Well, there was that one summer when my mom and some other well-meaning ladies at the church thought it’d do me and some of the other neighborhood hooligans some good to spend a week at church camp. I can’t say that I remember being invited back.

And, sure, there was always Scout camp, where you went off for a week into the woods with a dozen other boys and their dads. Success was marked by the troop returning with the same number of boys who left and with minimal trips to the emergency room for dads whose best camping days were years behind them.

But that was it: church camp and Scout camp. Now everyone is in on the action: churches, Scouting, the schools, athletic teams, colleges. Everyone’s trying to make a buck off us parents who want to ensure our kids are as competitive as the Joneses’ kids.

Makes me wonder how we all turned out to be functioning adults without all that extra training in the summer.

But, seriously, you can’t send Little Johnny back to school without giving him at least one camp to brag about. He’d be ostracized.

Which brings me to this: Next year, I’m opening my own summer camp for kids, and you can get in on the ground floor. I’m going to call it Summer Camp. We’ll go to the school playground, and then maybe we’ll wander over to the ball diamond.

On hot days, we’ll meander to one of the public pools, and I’ll let the kids drink their fill of chlorinated water. I’ll let them build some forts in my backyard, dig for some night crawlers and play hoops and hopscotch in the driveway. There’ll be time for some fishing, some hikes and even bicycling.

Don’t try to pin me down on when we’ll be doing what. We probably won’t keep a schedule, but I promise you I’ll have my cell phone on.

So remember, look for my mailing. There’s a discount for early-bird registrants.

Devlyn Brooks is an editor at The Forum and lives in Moorhead with his two sons.