We struggled to make ends meet when our kids were little.
It's the same story as every other one-income family.
We were sacrificing my salary so that I could remain home and raise our kids.
Therefore, we certainly could not afford all the amazing summer camps available for kids.
But nevertheless, we wanted to give our kids all the enrichment.
But the only thing our kids had was me.
I was literally the only thing we could afford back then.
But I wasn't Swim Camp.
Or was I?
I remember standing in my kitchen realizing that my kids did not actually need camp.
I was qualified enough to be hired by just about any camp I was looking into.
So why couldn’t I just be the camp?
I could find a place with free to little admission fees, some of the same exact places camps were going to.
I could pack lunches.
I could take my kids everyday for a week or even two just as if it were an actual camp I'd paid for and was dropping them off to.
The only difference:
I'd be the one leading the activities.
But I was already mostly doing that all the time as a stay-at-home mom and homeschool teacher anyway.
They say necessity mothers invention.
But even the perception of necessity can force invention.
So I invented "Camp Mom."
I determined to choose a beautiful spot where land meets water and we'd just go, day after day like it was a place we had paid and registered to be.
And looking back from this point in time, I see sixteen or seventeen summers of memories made at local beaches, pools, and ponds.
I taught my babies then toddlers then preschoolers then elementary kids then preteens then teens to swim better and better, little by little each year.
We also explored nature.
We got exercise.
We got to know each other.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself about our lack of funds.
I stopped feeling impoverished because of my career choices, mostly because I stopped acting impoverished.
Camp Mom, for us, has always been some type or version of a "Swim Camp," since swimming is what I enjoy, what I'm passionate about, I was a lifeguard at one point, I know most of the strokes, and could learn how to teach them, etc.
(But if you are a stay-at-home mom with littles and limited funds and you want to do some version of Camp Mom, it could look like something else. You could hike or visit playgrounds or do crafts instead.)
Camp Mom has morphed a little over the years and now that we have more financial margin, but the changes came about incidentally, almost entirely after-the-fact.
We were doing "Camp Mom" at a local pond for a while when we noticed that the lifeguards were giving swim lessons.
We assumed that the lessons were too expensive.
But, after a full year or two, we asked about how much the lessons were and found that, miracle of miracles, the price was reasonable and/or we could actually afford the price at this point in life.
So now, we actually pay for some swim lessons, and the kids finally get the enrichment of learning from someone else, someone they really want to please, and they make good progress. I can just sit and read my book for a while. It’s lovely.
So Camp Mom now has a portion of the day where the girls meet with a lifeguard/ instructor (besides me) and they learn the strokes from him or her.
But Camp Mom is still mostly swimming for hours with Mom and each other and friends who want to come, reviewing the strokes, racing, diving, jumping in, playing, kayaking, picnicking, playing cards, wondering over the nature we see at whatever beautiful place we've chosen to be.
And at this point, I bet we could probably even sign our kids up for an actual camp somewhere.
But we’ve been so shaped by the years of “Camp Mom” that we just wouldn’t do that, because the way we see it now, there's no time for camp.
We're too busy spending summers together.