I’ve entered the stage of my life where I have been forced to become a conscious parent. Conscious, not in the deep or woke sense, but in the form of no longer being able to dance as provocatively, or making sure I’m using thoughtful language when explaining what terrorism is to my 5 year old daughter. Along with this time in one’s life, also comes that fateful time of year. The time I typically look forward to, with warm weather, longer days and slower walks to and from the train station. However, now that I am parenting one of two children who has gracefully entered “big school”, it’s happened: I need to find a summer camp.
If you are not in this phase of life, indulge me for a second while I get real honest about where one’s mind can possibly go when trying to make sense of the cost of summer camp. My husband and I work. We do alright. Considering the cost of living in New York City, we’re doing pretty well. However, no amount of “alright” prepared us for the scavenger hunt to find a summer camp staffed with human beings who are mentally stable and will actually carry-on through the summer - at least through mid-August.
Yes, we’re looking for a needle in a hay-stack.
Once we were remotely close to narrowing down some options, then came the applications. Like most, we scoured the fine print to ensure we were aware of all the field days, clauses about peanut allergies and disciplinary rules. Yes, we vow not to send our child to school with trail mix and no, we will remember every Wednesday to pack a bathing suit for the wet slide. It’s the final page, that has made me reconsider how much we may actually need to do to get through summer camp.
There’s something about seeing an amount associated with Summer Camp for one 5 year old that can easily send you down a thought path you didn’t think possible. I always had big professional dreams which included a corner office and I can tell you, that all went down the drain the moment we flipped to p.3 of the application. Typically, my thoughts start off with basic self-loathing: Maybe I’ll quit my position and that might make us eligible for some assistance. Then - the reaching begins.
Hmm, I remember when *Nat did pole at amateur night and got $500 or something… All I need to do is place 1st for like a month… Nah, that just go to FaceBook and agonize with other parents about the cost of allowing your child to play in a bouncy house under the sun all day.
So there I was, (jokingly) putting forth the idea of hitting the pole for some dough to put a bright-eyed 5 year old in summer camp. Now, I’ve taken pole dancing classes a few years ago and have a deep and undying respect for the art. However, I’m aware that my humorous yet “if-someone-actually-said-lets-go-I-might-have-considered-and-still-said-no-anyway” thought was way more about the money than it was about the art.
All of this makes me think, largely, amount classicism and economics in the United States. Why would a well educated Black woman default to a tasteless joke about exotic dancing when faced with the costs to send her child to Summer Camp? Because she’s likely a part of the actively diminishing middle-class. The truth is, most of the world is plugged into some layer of pop culture. Members of my circle are educated and aware of the deep rooted sexism when it comes to women of color and in many instances, how this sexism has been monetized when no other options seem real. Yet, even my wokest of crew chuckled at my dark humor. It is because at some point, we’ve all wondered how the stripper-turned-mogul keeps securing the bag and we keep quietly complaining about what seems to be the incredible price to stay off the pole and in the office to pay staggering fees of parenting. For us, there is no middle ground. We’re not in the income bracket where the government will assist us, nor are we rich enough to have our children bussed to the best side of town for towel-service amenities. Therefore, we come up with bad jokes to make ourselves feel better about our willingness to grind, in a different way, to provide a great summer for our children.