When you’re a kid, spring break means a free week spent doing whatever you want without the responsibilities of schoolwork. Not so much when you’re a parent, who has to figure out what to do with those freewheeling kids while you’re working. Do you find a short camp? Take off work and travel? Park them in front of the TV and let them hang out with Victor Newman and the Genoa City gang from “The Young And The Restless”? Or just throw up your hands and let God sort it out?

“We get the Sunday night panicked parents going, ‘Oh, my gosh, I had no idea spring break was happening,’ ” said Heather Kormanik, coordinator at Coppermine, which runs sports programs for children and adults around the state and offers spring break camps, as well as one-day programs for other days off. “These schedules do creep up on parents.”

Yeah, they do! Here at Casa Streeter, we’re doing a hodgepodge of travel, time with the grandparents for the kid, and maybe finishing the living room painting job we started a month ago but making it seem like a game and not an unpaid job. Spring break seems both easier and more difficult to plan for than the summer — it’s only one week, but it might not be one parents can take. Whatever you do, it seems complicated and probably pricey, like every other part of parenthood.

“It was basically paying for a whole other babysitter, and that’s even more money, for spring break or any days that were holidays or a weird day off,” said Stephanie Austera, a member of the Facebook group Annapolis Moms. “Their dad works for the state, so he has umpteen-hundred hours of vacation time, so it was Dad asking off for a weird holiday. And it’s almost harder when they’re older, because there’s only so many places you can send them.”

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Others in Annapolis Moms, where I posed the spring break question, were considering a mix of a day or two of camp with a mini-vacation. One is taking a family cruise. Another plans to “let my daughter play outside and get all the nature and Vitamin D she can,” while another mom who works nights and is home during the day said she plans to let her kids hang out at home, “cross my fingers and hope they let me sleep.”

What almost everyone settled on was trying to give the kids some activity during their time off so they’re not just sitting around all week. Spring break, like other short periods off, has a knack for throwing the little ones off of their routine. By the time they get into the swing of being out of class, they have to go right back, and re-entry can be … difficult. (Ask me how I know.)

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Kids are “pumped to be doing active things without a time limit, not like ‘You have 30 minutes, now go back to school,’ " Kormanik said of her camps. “We have structured activity, but not just for a very short time. We do try to wear them out. We keep the little guys moving and grooving when we’re with them.”

I’m a fan of anything that has kids coming home exhausted and passing out easily. I also like the idea of switching it up, going from fun thing to fun thing. One of the most stressful things about day camps during the summer is the week-long commitment to something your kid might turn out not liking.

At Terrapin Adventures, an outdoor adventure facility in Savage, spring break camps can be a whole week or just a day or two as needed, so kids “can still be outside and have fun. They can get that social aspect and make new friends. They’re not getting that [staying] at home,” said camp director Emily Minter. They’re also doing things like ziplining and climbing, which are probably activities you can’t do in your back yard — unless you can, and in that case good for you and we’ll be over next week.

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I think the most important thing I’m going to plan for spring break is not to freak out about it. After all, breaks aren’t supposed to be stressful for either you or your kids, so if you can, just do what feels right. That’s what Austera and her brood are doing. After a year of losses in their family, they are headed to Florida “to do all of the beaches and outdoor activities. We’ve been trying to do things without really worrying about why we’re doing them. We want to enjoy any time we can together. We just want to get out of the house.”

leslie.streeter@thebaltimorebanner.com

Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop culture to the perfect crab cake. She is especially psyched about discussions that we don't usually have. Open mind and a sense of humor required.

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