Carefree days of summer
Remember those long, carefree days of summer filled with trips to the river or lake or ocean? The picnics (complete with ants), roller skating, bike rides, and all the things we did when we were growing up? If you’re a grandparent and retired, consider bringing back the old days for your grandchildren.
Several years ago a few couples in our community decided to invite their grandchildren to come stay with them for a week and planned activities to fill that week with old time fun. Over the years, the group has grown and shrunk, the children have all grown, and some of them are now too old to spend a week doing “kid stuff.” “Grandparents’ Camp” has gradually become “Grandkids’ Camp.”
The grandparents have all become good friends and “planning meetings,” several in spring and early summer, usually include dinner and wine and are mere excuses to get together. Our kids have some favorite activities but we try to have at least a couple of new ones each year…thus the necessity for “planning meetings.”
Tubing, fossil hunting, pool party?
We usually hold our camp the week that includes the Fourth of July, so of course a big picnic in the park wherever the fireworks are being held is de rigueur. Other favorite activities include tubing down our lazy river, fossil hunting on a nearby mountain, and at least one pool party, sometimes two. We have visited nearby caverns, a couple of museums, a small zoo, a trout pond, and always have roller skating as a rainy-day fall-back. One night is always pizza night. As older children drop out and younger children finally are old enough to participate, our activities change to accommodate the age range for that year. We have found that having completed kindergarten usually gives the children the social skills and independence needed to enjoy the group.
Oh, the drama!
For several years, there was a lady who ran a drama program for the kids each morning. On Friday the grandchildren would present their musical production for all of us before heading off to the wrap-up pool party and gutter sundae extravaganza. One year one of the grandfathers bought a length of vinyl rain gutter, cut it into short lengths, put caps on both ends of each piece, and let the kids use them to see who could build the most outrageous ice cream sundae. Pictures are taken of each masterpiece before it is devoured.
T-shirts, CDs, DVDs
Each year we have t-shirts made for all of the participants and one of the grandmothers compiles all of our pictures onto a CD (now a DVD) with music. By now, we have a closet full of t-shirts and a fist-full of video memories of summers past. One rainy day last summer, we watched all the CDs in sequence and loved the squeals of laughter as children saw themselves in years past. They decided that they are all cousins now, regardless of blood relationships.
Before planning an entire week, you may want to try a day over Christmas vacation or spring break with two or three other couples and their grandchildren. You could visit the local zoo or a kids’ museum or skating rink, then have pizza afterwards. Chances are you will find, as we have, that several adults watching a dozen children enjoying an activity is much easier than one adult having to keep track of two or three energetic siblings or cousins.
A benefit of our camp that we would never have foreseen is our knowledge of each other’s families. We barely knew each other when we began. Our friendships have developed into year-round relationships and shared interests. Several of us now volunteer at the library, others of us are in Red Hat groups together. When the inevitable grandchildren pictures are passed around, we can do more than make polite comments. These are kids we know!
This summer was our ninth year for Grandkids’ Camp. It has taken on the trappings of a family reunion with inside jokes and great memories. For one wonderful week each summer, we’re all family.
What great activities or events do you plan for your summer-time fun? Camps? Reunions? Block parties?
I’m a mother of two and grandmother of two. My husband and I have been married almost 40 years. I spent my childhood in the Midwest, and lived in California from high school through retirement. We traveled for a year and visited every state in the lower 48, then settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Professionally, I was an occupational therapist serving children in special education.
I’ve had a wild collection of volunteer jobs that nobody would have paid me to do, but they allowed me to develop skills I never would have gained in the workplace.
Interests include gardening, cooking, traveling, and amateur radio.
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Photos from Esther Miller, printed with permission.