Dispatches from Chicago Park District Summer Camp sign-up morning

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, who will happily enjoy reasonably priced day camps while your child goes to work with you and plays with your iPhone in your cubicle.

If you just read the headline and had an “Oh, $#/+!” moment, you’re already too late.

Chicago Park District Summer Camp sign-up was this morning. It began at 9 a.m. By 9:10 a.m. all was quiet on the internet front. There is nothing left to do but count the spoils of the battle (For us, everything we intended on signing up for – booyah!) and bury the dreams of those who logged in late, suffered a hardware or software crash, couldn’t get their classes in their shopping cart in time or couldn’t find their credit card this morning. If you didn’t get what you wanted, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

Did I mentioned we totally got all the classes we wanted, though? We did.

You see, for all the talk of what’s wrong with Chicago: raided pensions, bad parking meter deals, Anita Alvarez, the Chicago Park District offers a LOT of classes and camps in all kinds of subjects. All the offerings we’ve taken advantage of for our preschooler have ranged in quality from okay to really good, and the price … well, you can’t beat the price. Most of the offerings cost only slightly more than not taking a class at all. So, naturally, everybody wants a piece of the Park District action.

That means approximately three times a year, parents all over the city square up in front of their computers at ten minutes until 9 a.m., having strategized, having stretched, having had enough coffee to make them alert but not so much to make them lose their cool. The children are depo’d where they can’t kick out a power cable or mash the keyboard, and the battle begins.

So many things can go wrong, not the least of which involve bizzaro software glitches on the Park District side, which are a devastating occurrence but, with the way they price these camps, you can’t expect that they have a Google-esque tech campus. I’m sure there’s a very modestly compensated hamster running in a wheel somewhere making all this go, and generally it does work, even if the time code is listed in Pacific.

If you get the classes you wanted, your summer is set and the bank isn’t broken. If you DON’T get the classes you wanted, you either have a rowdy, rammy, stir-crazy child stuck at your house all summer, or you’re off to choose from private options which are considerably more expensive: Suzuki Pony Grooming, Montessori Windsurfing, Richard Connell’s North Shore School for Hunting a Human (“A Most Dangerous Camp!”).

Oh, and most of those camps filled up by Christmas.

So, congratulations to the winners, thanks to my wife and chief camp strategist, and apologies to my daughter and mother, who were barked at to stay in their part of the house (“You can’t play in here! This is the War Room!”) while Professor Foster and I opened the briefcases containing our Park District sign-up launch codes.

To those of you whose children won’t be singing, dancing, arting, gymnastics-ing, sports-ing, etc. for a low, low price at a park near your home this summer, we hope a spot opens up at the Li’l Hipsters Artisanal Charcuterie Workshop in Logan Square or Kenilworth’s Waldorf Fox Hunting Academy. Otherwise, when you have to quit your job to stay home all summer with your child and catch up on binge-watching, we recommend Wonder Pets, Octonauts and the Battlestar Galactica reboot (during nap time).

Oh, and come Fall sign-up (dates TBD), may the odds be ever in your favor.

*If you like my laptop stickers, check out Chicago’s onemansurfparty.com. I have no affiliation with him or his site, I just dig the guy’s stuff.

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