School’s out! Now what?

Two girls riding The Whip
Cathy Kaplan is planning a summer of fun for her daughter.

Ahhh summer… endless sunny days and late starry nights…

And childhood boredom. These kids have a couple full months off and I’m charged with being a 13-year old’s activities assistant. She’s too old for certain summer camps (hand paints are so blasé these days) but a little too young to hit the fields for a hard day’s work. So, my child and I face a conundrum… what to do this summer.

I’m a seasoned mom. I’ve got this, right? Mental preparation began late-winter. This year we’re forgoing the coordinated programs and veering off the path a bit. This summer will be the first year my child’s set to experience the teenage years. So, recently, I cautiously approached her room and sheepishly peeked my head into her lair. I decided, ‘why not see what she wants to do this summer,’ so I asked her.

Surprisingly, she had a few plans already up her sleeve. These ideas will surely vary wildly by child. But, my daughter intends on teaching herself the guitar. She also plans on learning the computer program Blender, a 3D graphics and animation software program.

Then she sprung the expected response, “hang out with my friends.” One great thing about this age group is that they can be set slightly free to grow up, experience and learn with their peers.

I anticipate much of her free time will consist of strolling down Washington Road, popping into the shops (like grabbing a snack at Uptown Coffee) or buying the most random gag gift at Grandpa Joe’s.

Of course, even hanging out amongst Mt. Lebanon’s shops can get old (surprising, right?) … but for a 13-year-old, it’s inevitable. So, what do we have as Plan B, C, D, and E?

Two girls walk in the a field of flowers

– Staycation with a camping trip to Hocking hills embedded during the week. We’re going to hit the zoo, museums, aviary, Kennywood, etc. throughout the week. Then for a bonus—since this is a variant of a vacation and not just a weekend day at the zoo—we’re going to upgrade all of our experiences and schedule wild encounters or special programs at these places throughout the week. All of these local Pittsburgh stops boast unique experiences for purchase and it’s worth the money for a vacation week. When we’re not at the cultural destinations in Pittsburgh, we’ll be hiking the countless waterfalls at Hocking Hills.

– Actual vacation to Maine later in the summer. After the excitement of local attractions wears off, I decided I needed a more robust plan for time-busting. We’ve been to Florida umpteen times and we travelled across the US in an RV. I decided it’s time to travel up north. To the tippy top of the northeast. We scored a beach-front dog-friendly campsite for the week in Maine. The campground offers campsite-delivered lobsters! You don’t see that in Pittsburgh too often.

– Random one-off art session. My child is OBSESSED with art. I discovered a neighbor who happens to teach art privately and I pulled some strings to enlist my daughter in a single one-on-one art lesson as a surprise. She asks me on a weekly basis about art classes and I hadn’t found any to fit her specific needs… until I haggled with the neighbor.

Summer experiences will differ as much as all our kids do. I’ve learned there’s no scientific formula on how to keep the kiddos occupied and happy for the longest months of the year. And honestly, it’s not possible. They’ll complain at some point before September. But, with a little outside-the-box thinking, I’m hoping my proactive measures will lessen the pain of having a teen throughout the summer. My goal is to look back and smile at all the experiences she encountered. Then we’d have a successful summer in the books.

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