Karen Green: Out Of My Element


Parks and Rec Without the Stress

Registering for parks and rec does not have to wreck your day

Parks and Rec registration used to be a highly co-ordinated operation requiring hours of forecasting, strategy meetings, and negotiation. I had to have plans, back-up plans and back-up back-up plans, plus a conciliatory offer at the ready for whichever child would inevitably be disappointed when I did not get them the program they wanted, despite the planning.

This all had to be prepared before registration even opened, because if you get through, you had better be ready to go. You don’t wake up at 6 am, put your land line, your cell, and your husband’s cell on speed dial plus get the web page ready to refresh at a rate of 68x/second without knowing what you want.

Finally, the moment arrives. 7:30 am, registration opens. You hit dial three times. You refresh. You do it again. So do a million other people.

When you still haven’t gotten through at 7:35, you know you must be prepared to move on to your back-up plan.

When the busy signal still persists at 7:45, you are no longer hoping that each of your children will get her three top choices. You are hoping that each of your children will get one of her top five choices.

At 7:55, hope is fading.

At 8:00, you have to go to work, but a burst of optimism propels you forward, as you think there is still a possibility that, when you have a chance to call later, there could miraculously be a spot or two open for one or both of your kids in a top-ten choice.

By noon, your dreams are shattered for another season. You know that you have destroyed your daughter’s hope of ever becoming a ballerina or a professional figure skater, and you begin to call the private swimming instructors. You symbolically look into the billfold of your nearly empty wallet, lay your head on your desk, and weep.

Fast forward a few seasons, and here I am in the cornfield. It’s registration day for Cornfield Parks and Rec.

And I forget about it completely. I don’t even have the guide.

Panic sets in around dinnertime, when I realize that I have promised the kids gymnastics and swimming, plus camp, which commence in less than a week. That night, I suffer the dreams of the unprepared, waking up every hour or so to fret that I have once again crushed my children’s aspirations and doomed my wallet to private-lesson bankruptcy.

The next morning I get on-line to look at what we’ve missed out on. Hmm —  not a lot of choice, actually. Very few programs for young children outside of swimming. It’s not like in Toronto, where everything from cooking to karate, ballet to baseball is on the roster. Then again, what’s the point of having a great selection if we never get into any of the programs?

I take a chance, and call Parks and Rec.

“Hi,” I say sheepishly, “I know I’m late to call, but I just wanted to see if there are any programs still available…”

I picture the woman on the other end of the phone laughing, calling over her colleagues to have a good guffaw at my expense. Programs! One day late! Hahahaha! Hope you want 60+ water aerobics at 6 am on Tuesdays! Hahahahaha!

“Sure,” comes the friendly voice, “What were you looking for?”

Drumfit for my five-year-old? No problem!

Camp for the kids beginning next week? Absolutely!

Swimming for both at the same time? Well, that they couldn’t do, because what I needed simply wasn’t offered. Neither was gymnastics.

Big sigh — I’ll still have to go private on those things, which, in Toronto would mean my bank account would be at least $1000 lighter.

But here? Gymnastics at the local club? $250. For TWO children.

Private swimming lessons in my in-laws backyard pool for just my two kids? Five days per week, $80 each Friday. For TWO children.

Because we’ve barely hit the budget for one term of well, anything, in Toronto, I tack on a week of horse camp at a local stable for my older daughter, $250 including the t-shirt.

There might not be as much to do out here, but it certainly is easier to do it. It's nice to know that the only number I need to put on speed dial is the pizza joint.