Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rites of Summer: fun with Fayetteville Parks and Rec

Ah, summer. Lazy days and carefree, unstructured play.

Unless you're a Coussoule kid

We don't intend to structure every moment of every day, and there certainly have been hours of Lego playing and American Girl Doll school and riding bikes in the neighborhood. But there have also been camps and scheduled activities to help the kids make the most of the summer break. 

Like a countless number of kids across America, swim lessons were a part of our plans in June. Both kids love the pool, but neither have had formal instruction since Caroline took swim lessons not long after we first moved to Fayetteville. She progressed quickly, and at one point could swim all four strokes with some level of proper form and technique.

John, on the other hand, has been anti-swim lessons every summer we've mentioned them. In a "pick your parenting battles" moment, each time we acquiesced to his disinterest and didn't enroll him anywhere for lessons. This year, though, we didn't ask his opinion - it was time to learn to swim at least the front crawl well enough to pass swim tests. No more not being able to go off the diving board or down the slide; time for John to join the ranks of swimmers.

The easy answer appeared to be the Fayetteville Parks and Rec swim lessons - two weeks, one hour each evening, municipal pool close enough that the back and forth was no problem. I managed to make it to one of the first lessons; we walked in to the newly renovated Wilson Pool house, and both kids were super excited to be in the pool:
I only got to go to a couple of the lessons, but if either of the days I was there were any indication, there was an awful lot of playing, not so much with the actual teaching and learning. The kids loved swim lessons, of course - plenty of time to go off the diving boards and down the slides:
Despite there being far less instruction than we had hoped, both kids had a great time, looking forward to swim lessons each night. As it turned out, John improved enough to swim sufficiently to get to the ladder from the bottom of both the slide and the diving board, so I suppose we should call it a success!

Among the eight camp options offered by the City, the next one we took advantage of was the annual Tennis Camp. The kids have continued to take weekly lessons at a local racquet club, but a week of three hour sessions seemed like too good of an opportunity to miss.

Caroline had grumbled pretty continuously for weeks about tennis camp; she doesn't really look forward to lessons, but Justin and I are both adamant that she play at least one sport. We like having the kids in tennis, because as a lifetime sport, it's something they can hopefully do for years to come. I finally had enough a week or so before camp started with Caroline's complaining - given that I didn't have a single thought as a kid of doing something like tennis camp, her ungrateful whining finally got on my last nerve and I told her to put a sock in it.

Last Sunday night after I put the kids to bed, as I was walking out of Caroline's room, I heard some very quiet sniffling coming from her pillow. I walked back in and found her crying; further questioning revealed that she was really anxious about tennis camp. All of her grumbling had been a facade; she was completely stressed out that she would be the worst one in camp; that all of the other kids would make fun of her; and that she would be embarrassed the whole time. I did my best to reassure her, telling her that as long as she 1) did her best, 2) listened to the coaches, and 3) had fun (the Coussoule Rules), she would be fine. Besides, there would be kids there that might not have ever played before, so she shouldn't worry.

Easy for Mommy to say; all the reassuring in the world, though, could only go so far in the anxious eight year old mind of my little girl. The next morning, I juggled my schedule so that I could do Day One drop off, encouraging both of them - but especially Caroline - as we headed to Wilson Park. I took a few pictures before having to leave, reminding them both to 1-2-3 Do their best, Listen to the coaches, and Have fun, and everything would be just fine.
The fears of teasing and humiliation were blessedly unfounded; we learned from the reports over dinner on the first day that they had both loved camp, and that Caroline was actually one of the "better" players in camp. As the week went on and we heard each day's recap, we realized that like swim lessons, this was more about "fun" and not so much about "learning." The change in Caroline's attitude toward tennis, though, overcame any irritation I may have had that they didn't seem to progress beyond their ability at the start of camp. Besides, it got them active and outside for a few hours each day, and even if it meant a bunch of games, there couldn't be any harm in having a racquet in their hands each day.

The best part of camp was hard to pin down; most days, it was "jail break," one of the games they played. On Friday, I think it was probably snack - who doesn't love a popsicle on a hot July day?
July 4th was the last day of camp, and thanks to the holiday, I was able to go and watch the grand finale.

Tennis Camp Graduates 2014
In true Parks and Rec form, the last day was only an hour and a half; the last ninety minutes were to be in the pool. At this point, I'm over it - I joined in, got some sun, and loved watching the kids have a great time with their friends. When it comes time to go back to school and the question "What did you do this summer?" hangs in the air, my kids will have plenty of options for how to answer.

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