I am a Day Camp Parent

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Whoever wrote “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” about Christmas made a mistake. Summer is the most wonderful time of the year for sure! Summer brings such a feeling of freedom. The sun is shining. School’s out. Rest and relaxation. Fun plans are getting underway.

And all over social media, the headlines read:

  • “I Send My Kids to Sleep-away Camp Because I Love Them.”
  • “Sleep-away Camp As A Kid Might Prepare You Better for College”
  • “I Send My Kids to Sleep-away Camp to Give Them a Competitive Advantage in Life”
  • “Kids Need to Be Away From Home – How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow.”
  • “Sleep-away Camp Builds Character.”

Sleep away camp sounds incredible – there are a slew of pros. I completely understand the many benefits and the experience sounds amazing – learning to deal with conflict, being away from home, taking care of yourself, etc. But, while all of the headlines above may be true, it’s also the time of year where us day camp parents may think “Jeez, I guess maybe I don’t love my kid as much as they do.” Eek.  Are the Jacobowitz kids are doomed?

I’m here to tell you – Don’t believe the hype!  It’s not true!  Not true, I tell you!  I’m here to speak for us Day Camp Parents and say to our kids “Yes, we do love you!!”

I AM A DAY CAMP PARENT

Say it loud, say it proud!

So yes, my children go to the local town camp.  And I’m pretty sure I love them just the same as the sleep-away camp parents love their children.  My daughter’s day camp is pretty standard – arts and crafts, sports, swimming, playground. My son is a little older, so he’s in the day travel program and gets to go to amusement parks, water parks, an MLB game and things of that sort. The hours are 9am to 3pm – and then they come home.  Possible play date afterwards or maybe a swim, but the official organized part of their day is over.

There are many reasons our children do not go to sleep-away camp.  First and foremost is finances – we’re simply unable to afford it.  It’s either mortgage or sleep-away camp – and that’s really ok.   I admit for this main reason: sleep-away camp was never more than a fleeting thought.  My proud persona as a Suburban Misfit Mom is shining through again! Growing up in the Bronx, hardly anyone went to sleep-away camp – for the most part, it was day camp – or no camp!  Would I send them if we could afford to?  It’s quite the hypothetical question at this point because it is just not happening, but I can certainly explore other benefits to the staying local for the summer too.

Some (like me!) believe that summer is a time to lay low a bit.  Some (like me!) feel summer is a time to get to know your kids again. Be a family! We get to do all the little things we’re unable to do during the school year. Ice cream for dinner. Running and playing around outside.  My little girl trying to catch fireflies when it gets dark out.  No rushing in because “it’s a school night.” All of us hanging out in my bed watching TV until late night.   No school stress and no homework. Seeing my children without “to-dos” over their head is quite appealing.  And for my children, it’s probably pretty refreshing to live without the constant nagging of, “do your homework!”

Day camps can be pretty cool nowadays too.  They definitely offer more than they used to.  There are specialty camps, like those devoted to sports, acting/singing or martial arts.  Sure, it’s on a different level, but can’t day camp allow some independence too?  They meet new children, take care of their own belongings, try new activities and take a few risks. But at the end of the day, they head to the comfort of their home, room, shower and bed.

Attending day cay camp offers fun organized activities daily, with the freedom in the evenings, suits our family perfectly.  They spend the day being physically active; and in the evening, they hang out without pressures of….anything.  Now, my two are hardly the “get out there and make some fun on your own” kids. My children actually need experience in managing situations without being in an organized setting. They almost need to get a little bored so they can learn to create fun for themselves. I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, my son and a couple neighborhood children were in the backyard trying to figure out what to do.  After what seemed like forever, they decided to play tag.  I have to tell you that it was painful to watch!  The picking of teams, placement of the bases, the rules, etc….it was like they were starting a political debate. They simply didn’t know where to start without someone telling them.

When I was a kid, you’d go out and just start playing.  No questions asked, no rules. Our parents let us play and explore with little adult direction.  The Jacobowitz siblings could benefit from getting in touch with their imaginative side on their own and the summer allows them to explore this more.  Seriously, the last thing my kids need the 8 weeks of fully coordinated activities day and night that they’d be offered at sleep-away camp.

Summer is also the best time to reinforce and grow our family relationship.  It’s such great fun to be together as a family without the hustle and bustle of the school year.  I adore being with them. I love watching them just “be”, enjoy themselves and celebrate the little things. Like when my daughter comes home singing about passing the deep water test and getting her green bracelet, it’s pretty priceless.  And there’s nothing better than sharing this type of experience with her.  As the saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short. How many summers do we really get with our children?

This all said, each family does what works best for their situation. Sleep-away camp, day camp or no camp.  I just hope my kids won’t lose out on that high profile college internship because they went to day camp.  Maybe they’ll need a little hand-holding or reassurance when they’re first living in the college dorms; but I hardly believe they are at a true disadvantage.  I don’t think I’ve ruined their future. At least I hope not!

Right now, instead of worrying about those college applications, I’ll concentrate on braiding the lanyard my daughter brought home. Shall I do the cobra or the spiral staircase?

Enjoy the summer all!

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