- I have to sign my kids up for summer events months in advance.
- In the past, I forgot to sign them up and didn’t show up at all.
- Our needs, as parents and children, can change in months, making it hard to keep up.
Last spring, I gave myself a big pat on the back. The record had been opened for craft camp at a local art studio during one of the weeks in August between Summer Camp finishing and starting school, and I was right there. In the middle of a work call, I logged in and did it.
My daughter would have loved it, if I had really remembered to send it.
Five months after my win on this particular registration challenge, we were heading to the beach for the week when my friend texted me to talk about carpooling for craft camp the next day. But without an email confirmation or an entry on our family calendar, he had completely disappeared from my radar. The registration I treated like a Taylor Swift ticket window in the middle of my workday was for naught, lost in a sea of short-term sorting and long-term planning that leaves parents like me unsure how we’re supposed to do it right. .
I am the chief of staff for my children.
There are times when I have to be a full-time chief of staff for my children and times when I have to read minds because everything requires extreme foresight.
Extracurricular activities take place four days a week and are reserved four months in advance. Programs are full at the time registration opens. Summer camp runs are maxing out for next summer only for kids to attend potentially two summers from now. There are more deposits, more tokens, more consultants and more deadlines. Everything is more, and everything is before.
Technology drives this madness. Most programs use online registration tools now, and I understand the benefit of getting more certainty about participants earlier from a business standpoint, especially in this economic climate. And from our point of view, signing up for swimming lessons with a click is easier than handing over a physical form with a check. But it seems that the simpler the process, the slipperier the slope can become.
A task that previously parents would have had a bit of leeway to handle now needs to be tackled at 9am and not 9:15am. .
there is more demand
Demand is also a contributing factor. The pandemic prompted many millennial families to flee metropolitan areas, but most landed in suburbs a short drive from the cities they left. Communities do not have the infrastructure to support the needs of this demographic. That means more parents are fighting for the same number of slots for just about everything, particularly after-school programs and activities that double as childcare.
I’ve seen many friends struggle to put together extended afternoons for their children when their employers’ in-person work expectations changed by a dime. These dynamics are still changing, leading many of us to take the “commit now, figure it out later” approach. But when “later” arrives, we still may not have what we really need because we can’t predict the future. We can’t use the moons and planets to predict whether our children will need three or five days of aftercare nine months from now. Parenthood is never so secure.
Not only do our needs change, our children change too. The way my 7-year-old first grader wants to spend her time is quite different from how the same girl, when she was a 6-year-old kindergartener, predicted she would last year. I’m not sure it’s fair to expect them to make informed decisions about their own interests and comfort levels when they’re growing at a rate that neither they nor we can control. Putting that on children or their parents is a heavy burden. We are not mind readers, we just hope it works for all of us.
All of this raises the question of, “How soon is too soon?” don’t ask me I spent last fall talking to a camp counselor about summer 2024. I just didn’t want to miss the window. But maybe I am the reason the window exists in the first place.
Heather Joelle Boneparth is an attorney and writer. her newsletter, Our little rebellions, seeks greater meaning in the subtle victories and defeats of women. find it in Twitter and instagram.