Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting Rid of the Day Camp

For the first time in several months, our schedules worked out in such a way that it was feasible to bring all four kids to the event this past weekend. Not entirely sure how that would work out, and even more unsure about the conditions of the event's new site, there was no small amount of trepidation about whether this was truly a good idea.

We'd gotten word that the event was intended to be held indoors and that there might not be much room for too many large day camps in the main area (a gym). Our day camp, with all four kids, doesn't tend to be small, so we made a conscious decision. We skipped the day camp.

Hand-in-hand with our previous discovery that spending the day tied to our chairs was just a bad idea, the idea of eliminating that option altogether sounded, oddly, appealing. Without a setup, a comfy rug, chairs, tables, and heck even without banners and tablecloths, we were free to explore, interact with our friends, let the kids wander and discover, and never feel obligated to use the space we carved out for ourselves.

We knew we couldn't do it cold-turkey (so to speak). Certain things just need to be conveniently on hand (like diapers), and with no certainty about the event site, it probably wasn't the best idea to not have at least one chair, just in case the need to sit down in one came on strong. So we settled on a "basecamp" concept.

A tiny rug (I have posters that are larger than that thing) and a single folding chair. The rug really just provided a spot for the kids to identify where "our space" was. We also had a single basket with games, mugs and other event odds and ends in it, the bag my class materials were in, an a small cooler with our lunch. We didn't bring 4 extra cups for the kids, we didn't bring plates/bowls/utensils for lunch. Instead, since we're all currently healthy, we just shared the three adult's mugs. We used large rolls and bread bowls for our ploughman's lunches (and decided that was the best way to do it). When lunch rolled around, we filled our mugs up at the water fountain and found a quite spot outside for a picnic.

We divided and conquered. We made the rule with each other: except for a few brief times throughout the day, at no time was one adult to be stuck with all four kids. In fact, for the most part, I never really had more than two at a time. Our friends caught on and gladly watched a child for us if the need arose. This gave us and the kids the freedom to attend classes, shop at the merchants, and join the bardic tea house, and best of all, happily chat with friends on the edge of the list without being distracted by the antics of four little hooligans.

The kids enjoyed it as well. O highly appreciated being able to explore without the constant reminders to stay inside an imaginary boundary. It was clear that they felt a sense of ownership of the site and even of the event. More than pure spectators, more than simple wanders, they were a part of it. Passing adults stopped and interacted with them- acknowledging their garb, or how nice it was that they opened a door.

Only my youngest got cranky enough to whine. He's still young enough to need naps during the day, so the short snooze he took when he had Daddy took advantage of the chair we brought was an extremely necessary break. And we all spent moments at the rug, hanging out there for a few minutes periodicly to re-group and assess everyone's condition before exchanging kids and moving on.

It was tiring. We spent very little time sitting, relaxing. That took its toll by the time court rolled around, and we ended up leaving earlier than we'd have liked. (Thank goodness, however, that their Majesties have created a children's time outside court for just such a reason. All four ended up out there in the end.) Yet, the exhaustion we felt on the trip home was well earned. Instead of being tired because we'd spent the day herding the kids trying to keep them under a shade or on a rug, we were tired because we, collectively, finally got to really play our favorite game.

Will the day camp be forever banished? Probably not. When the summer sun requires shade, and having a cool drink on hand is essential, we'll be thankful for our day camp. But I bet you won't find us there very often anymore.