Mama Madison: The summer schedule

Juggling sessions and filling out forms is a job itself

Each and every March the first harbinger of summer, a nondescript legal sized white envelope, arrives in my mailbox. It's the community pool registration forms. With as gray and dismal as Madison's spring can be, you'd think I'd be a little more excited for any sign that warmer weather might be on the way. But instead their delivery brings on a mild panic. You see, for me, those forms are the unavoidable signal that it's time to tackle summer scheduling for the kids - one of my least enjoyable activities of the year.

Summer's never been my favorite season; I hate mosquitoes, never-ending applications of sunscreen and any weather that causes my hair to frizz more than usual. But ever since having kids, my summer concerns have only gotten more pronounced. I can no longer enjoy Alice Cooper's classic, "School's out for summer, School's out forever" as the ode to freedom (and blowing things up, unfortunately) it was intended to be. Instead I hear only a dire maternal warning from the theatrical rocker: That the dog days between mid-June and late August will feel like an eternity. And if you work from home, as I've done for the past few years, summer can be a logistical nightmare. Without the relief that only careful scheduling can bring, every day may end up feeling like an unintended parody of "Take Your Child to Work Day."

And so it begins each spring--the plotting, the planning and the balancing. Trying to figure out just enough - but not too much - for each of the kids to do to stay busy and stay out of my hair. I spend hours researching; pouring over MSCR , YMCA and other like-acronymed catalogs. I get every detail mapped out on calendars, double-checking that I haven't overestimated my ability to drive from drama at the Shorewood Community Center to learn-to-row Brittingham Boat House in the 10 minutes I have allotted.

While I'm normally not much of a fan of governmental deregulation, I've always secretly wished the legislature would consider lifting the minimum driving age for summer only"it would be really nice if my oldest could help just a little with the chauffeuring.

Next is perhaps the part I dread most-- the frantic-form-fill-out. I have no idea what may have triggered this phobia, but I verge on hyperventilation while writing out my address, multiple phone numbers and insurance group IDs over and over. It doesn't matter if it's horse camp, zoo school or swim lessons, everyone needs to know my child's relation to his emergency contact. And I could personally guarantee success in many of the state senate recalls if only there was only a way to apply my countless signatures on medical release forms to the efforts.

To add insult to injury, I will inevitably make some sort of clerical sign-up error with potentially dire consequences. One year I pressed the wrong button on-line and had my then six-year-old daughter signed up for a full-length production of Rent as opposed to the pint-sized production of Alice and Wonderland I intended. The next year, I mistakenly signed my son up for the all-girl session of soccer camp. If he'd just been a few years older, he might have had the best summer of his life.

But as I lick the stamp and place it on the last registration envelope I get a little bittersweet. I do all of this work to get them out of the house for a few hours each day when, in just a few short years, they'll be out of the house all the time. I promise myself to remember this feeling during the first summer thunderstorm when I have a big project due and we are all trapped in the house.

How do you handle keeping your kids busy during their time off school? Do you do full-day, or even sleepaway camps? Or do you have a more laissez faire attitude toward the lazy days of summer?

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