Chicago’s summer camp lottery

What am I doing here?? 6:30 am on a Saturday, sitting on the ground outside of Wicker Park with a bunch of equally desperate strangers in the cold. Two words: summer camp.

This madness began this past Thursday morning, when I excused myself from a meeting a few minutes before 9 so I could register Caleb for summer camp online. I pretended to have to take an important call, got on my iPhone, and pulled up my Park District ‘wish list’ to register. Two minutes after registration opened, all the camp slots were filled! How in the world is that possible?

On to Plan B: in-person registration.

So as my alarm went off at the crack of dawn this morning, I grumbled, not wanting to get out of my cozy, warm bed! I asked for a pep talk, and all I got was, “Wear a parka, and warm socks and shoes.” Grrr…not exactly what I was looking for! When we got to the point of, “Surely, you’ll win the Mom of the Year Award for this deed,” I decided it was time to get up.

So, here I am now, sitting on the pavement in a line that wraps around the back of the building and out to the playground. I’m in long johns, lots of layers, gloves, extra thick socks, and my Uggs. I’m also wearing my 6 year old son’s winter hat, because I was too tired (lazy?) to get my cute one from the car. Every person in front of me is in a camping chair. The woman at the front has a kerosene heater, a book, and a blanket. I am totally unprepared! But how long has this woman at the front been camped out here?! I guess she wins the ‘Mom of the Year’this time around.

Fast forward – we got a spot in the camp! Unfortunately, there were many, many others who weren’t so lucky. It feels silly to equate lucky with getting a spot in the camp down the street from our house. But it also feels silly that I am sitting, overheated, in my boy’s winter hat, in the Wicker Park Fieldhouse doing even more waiting. This time, to pay. Close to 5 hours later, I’ve finished. Time to go out to breakfast with my two favorite, extremely grateful, guys!

I’m still left with the question of why is childrens’ programming so hard to access in Chicago? We have the highest sales tax rate in the nation and real estate prices to match – where is all that money going? And why do we have to fight (and wait) for our kids to be taken care of? I’ll be waiting here for your answers…

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