Primary schools closed their doors for the much-anticipated summer break last week. Previously, the summer holidays were a time for switching off and allowing kids some time to get out of the rat race of being a kid.
Yes, kids in 2019 are in a rat race. Nowadays, their lives are scheduled with military precision to ensure that not a moment is wasted and they’re always busy.
The shameful throwaway comments at the school gates in recent weeks suggest that parents are less inclined than ever before to spend time with their kids. Summer Camp Bingo is soon to be a term that will no doubt go viral and in time will find its way into the Oxford dictionary, along with other important, societal words like twerking and hashtag. Sounds fun, I hear you say. “What are the rules of Summer Camp Bingo?” I hear you ask.
Well, Summer Camp Bingo needs a minimum of two players to start the game and can be played online through group chat apps such as WhatsApp and Viber (this is not an endorsement of these group chat platforms, other group chat platforms are also available).
Some maverick players actually play Summer Camp Bingo in person, and have real conversations with the parent standing next to them while waiting for their kids at the school gates — “Totes Awks,” I hear you say.
Back to the rules of the game.
Player one starts the game at level one, by listing all the camps their kids are already registered for over the coming summer months. Players two, three, four and so on, then come into the game by ticking as many of those camps off their list and making themselves and other players feel good about their child management and administration skills.
A first world version of the phrase, safety in numbers. Only those in the multiple camp category get to proceed to level two, where additional chats are had about the quality of the camps and some direct quotes from their employees, my apologies, their kids, are added to the chat thread.
The majority of parents exit the game at this stage, as their use of summer camps is less clinical. They remember their days at Irish college as a novelty of spending time with people other than neighbours or classmates in a different setting. Yet, summer camps appear to have taken this sequestered culture and adapted it for kids a decade younger for reasons that are likely to be conveniently put down to financial and economic challenges.
However, level three, like all good games, is for the more advanced Summer Camp Bingo gamer, where the game is simply referred to as SCB. Time is too precious for level three gamers to use the full title. Oh, the shame of having some time on your hands in 2019.
How pathetic those lives must be? So unfulfilled. The mere thought of not having every moment of your day preoccupied brings shivers to the spines of some people, or maybe it’s the fifth over-priced cup of coffee of the day that’s responsible for such uncontrollable bodily functions. I digress.
Again, this is where the experts separate themselves from the pack. They don’t ask about how much it is, or what activities are included, instead they are more interested in the timeframes involved.
The swing vote for new camps to hoover up registrations is when an unconfirmed rumour is posted into the group that the camp actually takes the kids in early in the morning and also accommodates a late pick up. Hysteria ensues.
At this stage in the game, the chat platform goes silent as search engine apps are loaded and the new camp name is entered. Speed is of the essence at this stage, as only those quick enough to register for the now must-have camp of the season will return to the chat for level four.
The SCB guru within the group will already have autofill options enabled in their phone to speed through the personal details required for registration. Risks of bank account hacking are worth taking, as the payment options are completed in double quick time using a SCB specific credit card. Finding it impossible to hide their sense of accomplishment, they re-enter the group chat with a screenshot of the confirmation email.
The dopamine response that fills their body is from the joyous relief that they have finally filled that tricky week in August before the kids go back to school again and they can get their lives back. Their Summer Camp Bingo card is now complete. Such heartfelt parenting would bring a tear to a glass eye. Stage four is the bonus territory of the game. Somewhere over the summer months a family holiday is planned and those that have survived the earlier rounds now know they are among equals.
This is where destinations are shared and day camp provisions for the kids are announced. At this stage, with only a few players still in the game, the eventual winner will emerge victorious when players announce they are going to the same place themselves because of the resounding report you provided from last season. The crowning glory for the SCB champion is that they are now known as a Summer Camp Influencer.
All hail the Summer Camp Influencer. Maybe things aren’t as bad as all this suggests. Maybe. Summer camps can be fantastic fun for kids, and some are better than others, but they are also highly structured, ordered, and time-constrained. It sounds a lot like school to me. I thought the idea of a holiday is to get a break from what you experience on a normal week?
Kids need less structure, less order and more time to be just kids. Remarkably, when kids are asked what they’d like to do and who they’d like to do it with, it is often something very simple like a kick around outside or read a book inside, with their parents, at the top of the list. That is if you can convince them that the games console also needs a holiday.
The concept of a rat race is an adult construct that kids do not need early experience of to prepare them for life beyond their teens. it shouldn’t be as difficult as it is becoming for our kids to slow down. The vicious cycle of a packed itinerary sends a troublesome message to our kids that time is there to constantly to be doing things.
The trouble with going from one thing to the next is that everything becomes a blur. Childhood memories are at risk of becoming a thing of the past and shared family experiences read more like a TV advert than something personal and unique.
This is a cry for childhood to be run by kids once again, before it’s too late and we start calling them mini-adults and a generation will be lost from us, for good.