Alt-Parenting: Stay-at-Home Parents’ Summer Survival Guide


Enjoy a Peaceful Summer, Kids Included

Summer is fast approaching and excitement is in the air.  If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you’ve probably spent the past few weeks fantasizing about the wonderful break you’ll have from homework battles, making lunches and endless after-school activities.  You’ve pooh-poohed the idea of summer camp, as you picture long days at the beach, day trips to Canobie Lake Park and the zoo, and being outdoors, 24/7.

If this describes you, take a look in the mirror. Do you see yourself or have you transformed into a snowman? I ask because you sound an awful lot like Olaf from Frozen, and, like him, your summer fantasies are about to land you in a BIG mess.

Granted, your summer won’t find you melted into a puddle, but you’ll be suffering a fate just as painful: nine weeks straight of entertaining your children. Yes, summer is fun for the first few days. I guarantee, however, that by July 4th, you’ll be begging to turn back the hands of time and find a full-time summer camp (or turn them back much farther and schedule a vasectomy).

If I’ve convinced you of this certain doom, take heed. There is still hope for those of us who want to enjoy some summer fun with our kids, but think we might need a back-up plan – a place to send them when we’re at our wits’ end.  Below is your summer survival strategy.

Enroll your kids in a flexible drop-off camp, like Dream Big Gymnastics in Cranston, which has a summer camp that looks loads of fun, but the best part is the program’s flexibility. The kids can go for a half-day, full-day, whole week, or just once – as little or as often as you like. You can register them in advance to save a bit of money or drop in whenever you choose. KidZone in North Kingstown has something similar .  Be sure to call ahead as space is limited. For younger children, your local preschool might offer something similar. In East Greenwich, for instance, Little Red Hen has a flexible summer camp for children ages 3-7. Such flexibility comes at a price, so if you’re on a budget, use these camps judiciously, like if we get a week of rain … or you get a serious case of PMS.

Find a half-day camp.  These can be ideal, as they give you a chance to get your errands done, pack up the beach gear, even take a shower – in peace. You’ll feel refreshed and ready for an afternoon outing.   Teamworks in Warwick and Jump Dance Company in Providence both offer a selection of half-day programs. The East Greenwich parks and rec department, which is open to non-residents, also has some terrific half-day camps at a ridiculously affordable rate. The best part? Optional lunch and playground time for an additional $25 per week. At that price, who cares if they ever even go? The comfort of having options is worth every penny. Check with your local parks and rec to see what they offer.

Hit the beach — often. Yes, preparing for the beach can be quite a project. Also, unless you live in South County, it’s a long ride (by Rhode Island standards) often riddled with traffic and the crowds can be annoying. The beach, however, is a parent’s Nirvana – you relaxing in your beach chair while the kids play happily in the sand, all day. You know you want to be there, so make it easy. Get yourself a beach buggy at the Christmas Tree Shop, keep a packing list on your fridge so preparation’s a breeze and pick a beach that’s kid-friendly. Roger Wheeler is always a good choice, but it does get crowded and has that dreaded playground.  I’ll never understand this – isn’t the beach itself a playground? I prefer George’s – down the shore from Roger Wheeler and next to Salty Brine State Beach. You can watch the boats from the rocks, get some chowder and clam cakes, and, best of all, easily sneak in a bottle of wine as there are no lifeguards and no one patrols this private property. It’s my favorite beach – just don’t take my spot!

Finally, get organized and hyper-scheduled.  I’m not a terribly structured person, but for this summer, I’m armed with a spreadsheet containing the names and contact information of all the stay-at-home parents with whom I enjoy spending time, and a calendar of weekly activities, carefully selected from Motif’s summer guide.  I’ve planned kid-swaps with fellow stay-at-home parents, and extracted promises, in blood, to be invited to pool clubs and beach houses. I’m ready for summer!

If you think I’m a bit paranoid, think again.  I’m writing this on Memorial Day – the third day in a row of being home with both boys.    It’s been a mere three days, yet I’m thrilled to send them back to school tomorrow.  If this is a glimpse of my summer, there’s no way I’d make it without a back-up plan.  Now go get one for yourself and survive – maybe even enjoy – summer with the kids.