The Cost of Summer

Last week we went to see Volta, the new Cirque Du Soleil show that is playing in August in Gatineau. We all agreed that it was pretty good and had lots of great stuff, although the kids were kind of “meh” about it overall. How you can be “meh” when a show features a woman doing gymnastics while hanging from her hair is beyond me, but they were.

Afterwards, Sir Monkeypants asked me how much the tickets were – about $200. That led to a gentle conversation about what summer costs around here, and whether or not it’s worth it.

When he was a kid, Sir Monkeypants spent his summers just hanging out. His parents worked, and they were also not the kind of people who were into public events – they’re not really joiners. And that was fine – he has lots of great memories of just hanging out with friends, playing street hockey or video games in someone’s basement, spending long lazy days reading or watching TV or just throwing a ball against a wall.

I had days like that too, but my mom was more interested in doing stuff – actually it was more my grandparents who were joiners, and who encouraged us to have experiences. We didn’t have much money, but my mom took us to the Stratford Festival at least once a year, an event I cherished. We went to see Cats when it came to town and every year we’d make the trek to the Exhibition in Toronto for treats and rides and concerts. We always seemed to find someone’s cottage to visit in the summer and we stood outside for every single parade, ever. When the Toyota plant opened, of course we went and stood in line for a free tour – it was that kind of thing, checking out every new thing, every interesting thing, that I really remember and cherish about my childhood.

So, is the Summer of Awesome worth it?

Is it worth it to plan and organize all these activities and events, both cost-wise, and energy-wise? Do the kids really appreciate it?

There’s always hit-and-miss with the summer activities. Hits this year: The Bank of Canada Museum (surprisingly), Kontinuum (also surprisingly), Classic Car Night at Hazeldean Mall, the Canada 150 play structure at Mooney’s Bay. Middling, at best: The Canada Hall at the Museum of History (but they did have a pretty good time in the Children’s Museum, despite being a bit too big for it now), and La Machine (we never did get close enough, with all the crowds, to really see the giant robots). Total fail: MosaiCanada (boring and hot, according to my children – but saved with a trip on the water taxi and ice cream in the market).

And in terms of cost, each outing, I’d say, costs somewhere between $100 and $200. Museums are less, but places like Funhaven and Saunders Farm are more. I’d guess I’m spending about $400 a week on our summer. I justify it because we have three kids, and none of them do any day camps; to put all three in some sort of week-long activity would cost at least that much, and this way, we get to go to the places we want on the schedule we want.

Most importantly, for me at least, Summer of Awesome means we are having shared experiences. We are doing things together that hopefully they’ll remember and value – even the crappy stuff leads to good stories and in-jokes that only we share. So for me, it’s worth it, no matter the enthusiasm level.

Last week’s episode of The Amazing Race Canada was set in Ottawa. We’ve been watching as a family, and this episode was the BEST. Every single place they went, we’d been there. The market, Hog’s Back Falls, Dow’s Lake. The Museum of History, the National Gallery, Inspiration Village. We were all shouting – “I’ve been there! I’ve been there!” during the episode and I felt great about it.

We’ve been there. Maybe it was good, maybe it was a flop. Maybe it was expensive, maybe it took them away from a day of lying around the house staring at a screen, maybe it felt like work in the middle of their glorious summer. But no matter what, it was a shared experience, and that’s worth something, worth it to me.

6 thoughts on “The Cost of Summer

  1. Sounds to me like you have a balance of both!

    I wish we had been a little more diligent with putting some cash away for things this summer. I did this last year, where I had an envelop of a certain amount assigned for specific weeks, and when it was gone it was gone. But this year was a really low key summer with no camps, very little extra stuff, because of some majorly costly house maintenance. And you know what? The kids were perfectly fine! One kid still had baseball a couple of times a week, a couple of weeks of swim lessons for both, and the other started lifeguard club twice a week in August. The rest of the time they chilled, swam at the local pool, we did some visiting and playdates, had a few of low key outings, and that was it.

    I grin and bear the plugged-in-ness knowing it’ll drastically reduce when school starts up again, and there are always chores to do when they start to bug me. “Peel the carrots” I yell at them. “Mow the lawn!”….and “vaccuum the car!” lol

  2. Shannon

    We were just talking about this. We usually save up a summer fun fund to do some fun things, like Jays tickets and the like. This year we opted to spend that fund on some outdoor home improvements. We turned an afternoon or two at the ball park into an entire summer of comfy baseball watching on the deck with friends and family (the almost world famous #FoulBallFridays). We have spent many an hour out there outside of watching ball as well. Abby is doing an exchange trip this summer and playing hardcore tourist with our exchange kid from BC. We had two family days and while some families in the exchange opted for some of the touristy things that didn’t make the official tour list (Casa Loma, the ROM, etc) Abby and her exchange twin opted for a down day watching movies and cementing the beginning of a life long friendship. Experience is great and there is nothing wrong with trying something out and figuring out it isn’t your cup of tea, there is great value in that as well. I think the most important thing is to know what that balance looks like for you.

  3. smothermother

    Funny. I was having a pout yesterday because I feel that Marty isn’t doing enough with Max. Their days are lots of hanging out, video games, maybe some crafty sort of time. maybe they get on their bikes for a little bit. It drives me nuts. I have to work all day and they have the chance to do all sorts of really cool things and they don’t. But they are doing exactly what they want to be doing, what they like doing. I’m the adventurer, the doer, the planner. I have to realize that they aren’t me. It’s always really tough at the end of the summer when to me I see wasted time. but to them it’s been perfect.

  4. Mark

    +1000 to the shared experiences. That – being a family – is more valuable than anything else they might do on their own, I think.

    As for the screen time stuff, I fret over that as well. But I’ve started to realize that many of the things they do with the screens are not nearly as mindless as they seem. They gravitate to different things, and in both cases they are really scratching an itch in a way that is definitey not mindless, and in fact furthers their interests outside video games and YouTube. Our older son doesn’t play video games nearly as much as he watches baseball videos on YouTube (or basketball the other half of the year). Watching him play this weekend I realized that what he brings to his team more than anything else is that he is a *smart* baseball player – he is focused, and almost always makes the right decision during a play, and many of his peers aren’t as good as that as he is. Our younger does mostly play games, but the other day he was explaining the nuances of the game he was playing (don’t know what it was – he was talking a mile a minute and there was no time to ask) and I was amazed at the nuances and complexities about the game structure he is able to absorb and explain. He’s a 4th-grader, bored in school because it just moves to slow, and this is something that exercises his brain in a way school probably won’t be able to for a long time, and I think that’s really important for him.

    A friend also pointed out that he makes a distinction between doing screen time alone vs doing it with friends, and the latter is very much a social activity; there’s much more learning happening there than just achieving your short-term goal in the game. When they do this they are talking all the time and laughing – they are not just shutting out the world to be in their own world.

    And to tie the two together – we’ve had a long-standing tradition of watching a movie on Friday nights, but our new thing is to watch an episode of Flash every night. It’s screen time, but it’s a shared experience, it’s a common interest, it’s something we all look forward to doing with each other. We are a family.

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