• Tue, Jul 16 2013

Twinning: I Don’t Send My Kids To Summer Camp And I Haven’t Gone Crazy Yet

crazy woman babyHaving twins can be the most amazing experience of your life. It can also cause you to wake up in the morning wishing you were someone else. Twinning offers an honest depiction of life with twins from a mom who tries to keep things somewhere in the middle.

When I was growing up in the small town of Saugerties, New York, I couldn’t wait for summer vacation. The long, unscheduled days were spent riding bikes, building forts, playing softball, napping in the hammock and swimming in our pool until dark. I envisioned the same kind of idyllic summer for my twins, so I was surprised to find that practically everyone in my NYC suburb sends their kids to summer camp.

Summer camp never seemed like a fun option to me as a kid. My only friend who spent her summer at a camp had divorced parents and a mom who worked full-time, so for her it was a necessity rather than a luxury. She didn’t like camp and often shared stories of getting sunburned, bitten by mosquitoes and having to learn a lot of dumb songs she didn’t want to sing. So I had no desire to go to summer camp, which worked out just fine considering my overprotective mom would never have allowed me to go anyway.

When my twins turned three, my friend who had 4-year-old twins asked me what camp I was sending them to. When I replied, “Oh we’re not doing camp, they’re too little” our conversation abruptly stopped.

She gave me a serious “Mom-To-Mom-No-Bullshit” look and said, “I thought the same thing and kept them home last summer. I don’t think I recovered from it until Thanksgiving. Send them to camp, you’ll go crazy otherwise.”

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Since she’s a smart, trustworthy friend, I didn’t immediately respond with my old-timer answer of “I never went to camp when I was little—I don’t see why they should.” But I didn’t really give it much thought. I wanted my kids to have the kind of summers I did—unscheduled, kid-centric, family-based, old-fashioned backyard fun. Summer camp, wasn’t for us. When September came, I was still sane, and 100 percent happy that I spent every day of that summer with my kids.

My twins are seven now, and we’re still camp-free.

tumblr_lbp3pvC0Yb1qzjix8The things we fill our days with changes every year, but for the most part, we wake up when we want to, pile into my bed and read, play outside or at a park, go swimming, have playdates, do crafts, workbooks and art projects, play board games and usually have a week or so of lessons in whatever they’re interested in at the time (this summer it’s Lego engineering and art classes). We travel plenty: going away for vacation, visiting relatives and making day trips in Manhattan. We stay busy, but as unscheduled as possible.

Now I’m not an overachieving, blogs-about-crafts type of mom—I love my free-time as much as anyone. But what I realized early on was that kids really do grow up fast and as a mother of twins, I don’t get a second chance to do anything. When my twins graduate from preschool, that’s it for preschool. When they turn five, that’s the last fifth birthday party I’ll plan for my kids. I’ve really got to be present and cherish every moment, and that’s what I’ve tried to do every summer since they were born. (OK, maybe not the first summer when they were basically luggage that screamed, but you know what I’m saying here.)

The good thing about my kids is that they’re like me: they like to sleep late, hate schedules, love art, music, reading and they don’t even mind shopping. If I had hyperactive kids who woke me up at  five a.m., or were those outdoorsy-type-kids who whine when they’re inside for more than an hour, then sure I probably would put them into camp because they’d drive me crazy and they would be bored hanging out with me.

Now that my twins are seven, having them home all day is getting harder because they fight with each other and are more demanding of me than they ever used to be, but still, we manage to have a good time at the end of the day. They don’t want to go to camp, and I don’t want to send them to camp. If all goes well, I’ll still be sane once school starts again in September.

(photo: Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock)

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  • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

    “They were basically luggage that screamed.” You are pretty much the best G

    • http://www.facebook.com/RetiredSceneQueen Emmali Lucia

      I know, right? You totay beat me to it but I was going to say “Add in freakishly adorable outfits that they will spit up all over and you summed up babies perfectly.”

  • Paul White

    There’s a huge difference between a week or two in camp (out of what, 10 weeks of summer) and a full summer camp. I think we’re certainly going to try at least shorter camps when Sam’s older, money permitting.

  • JD

    Your summer sounds a lot like mine – unscheduled but we do a lot and have lots of fun! My kids are two and four, but adventurous. In our neighborhood it is pretty unheard of for a four year old not to be in (day) camp. But we made a list of things we want to do this summer and are loving playing it by ear.

    It helps that my in laws have a vacation home near a pool and lake that we can access whenever we want just two hours away. My kids are getting a great mix of country and city summer life. And in the country I can let them play outside by themselves and just watch them through the windows. They will never get that experience in the city.

    Anyway, I grew up with so much freedom in the summers and I definitely want them to experience that to the extent that they can.

  • Lalala

    The only camps I ever did growing up were sports camps for a week or two and I was home by four everyday. I always looked forward to these and asked to go. I don’t really understand these sleep away camps for the entire summer. Don’t you want to be around your kids for at least some of the time?

  • Jessica

    I an just fascinated that you grew up in Saugerties. I mean, who needs camp when you have Cantine Field, amiright? Go Sawyers!

    As Paul said, while a full summer of camp is not for us, I think I would be more open to week long camps in the future. My oldest is 7, and I can see her getting a lot out of the experience in a year or two. I can also see my middle child forming a rogue group of ninja campers who eventually end up on the news… so she might not go. I will say that I am the only mother I know in our neighborhood who did not sign their kids up for any camps this year (or last year for that matter.) I don’t remember it being such a “must do” thing when I was in 1st grade!

    • Gloria Fallon

      Ha, Go Sawyers is right! When I was growing up, Cantine Field was about all there was, apart from the creek (“the Saugerties Beach” I think they call it now) and our backyard. But that’s all you really need anyway. Enjoy your Saugerties summers—I’d do it all over exactly the same if I could!

  • SDA

    I love this. As a full-time working mother, I see doing day camps; but summer is also my time with my child. Late nights enjoying the extended daylight; ability to take time off while she is out of school and although I do not have twins, she will be my one and only, so each stage of her life will be the first and last for me as well. I’m sure when she is older there will be sleep away camps for a week or two, but I’m glad to read that there is someone out there that doesn’t feel it HAS to be done.

    • LiteBrite

      I so agree. My son’s daycare does a summer program where he goes on two field trips a week. I’ll also probably send him to a couple of week-long camps when he’s older. But right now I’m enjoying the after-work time I have with my son: helping him ride his bike or even just playing outside.

      No judgment from me if you want to send your kid to a summer-long camp and can afford it. Go for it. But I think I’d personally miss this time with him too much.

  • geckomommy

    Is summer camp where you send kids away for the whole summer a northern thing, or a rich kid thing? I grew up in the South, and I went to church camp for a week a couple times when I was older, 11 and 12, and when my mom worked full-time I’d go to daycare, but I never knew anyone growing up who went away for the whole summer. I remember seeing it in movies as a kid and being fascinated by the idea, but thinking it was something kids didn’t actually do, at least anymore.

    • http://www.facebook.com/RetiredSceneQueen Emmali Lucia

      Certified Northerner (Okay fine, a North Westerner) here. This is highly unusual. Most camps are about a week or week and a half

    • Rachel Sea

      I was a camp horseback riding instructor, and our camp (in North Carolina) was three sessions that were three weeks long. Some kids went for three weeks, some went for six, or nine. I really loved that format, because it gave every kid, even the ones who were agonizingly slow to adjust, the time to feel at home and have a great experience. I would absolutely do whatever I needed to be able to send any child of mine to weeks-long sleep away camp. It is expensive, but worth it

  • Alicia Kiner

    I’m actually going to try to send my kids to a sleep-away camp next summer, but not a full summer. I’m thinking 1-2 weeks. But I’m also thinking of doing it because I think they’d love it. My daughter is really into the arts (crafty or performing) and my son is really outdoorsy, so I can see them having a blast. But, at the same time, I want to have time with them to do stuff too. And no, I never went to camp when I was a kid, but I always wanted to. So, if things all work out, my kids might get the experience next year.

    • Anne Cordelia

      I did a two week camp every summer when I was a kid and I LOVED it! You should totally do it.

    • Gloria Fallon

      We’ve got the same idea—giving our kids summers they’ll love. I feel unbelievably sad when my friends tell me their kids hate summer camp, because I couldn’t send my kids to a place they hated. For hours, every day! But my son is a Lego kid, and really wants to go to a week of Lego engineering from 9-1 and thats something I’ll get behind. Enjoy your summer and good luck next year!

  • SusannahJoy

    I loved going to 1-2 week summer camps when I was a kid. Got to meet new people, do some new things, and get away from my siblings for a bit! It was great! I want to send my kids to camp too because while you’re all excited about doing all those fun things with them, that’s just so not me. I hate stuff like that. I hate crafts. I hate having to plan activities. But I want my kids to get to experience that, so I’ll have someone else teach them! And during the time they’re home with us, we’ll go camping and hiking! Should be good…

  • Diana

    We don’t have summer camps in my country. Its not something people here would find appropriate. Especially for 4 year olds. Anyway I don’t think my parents had a hard time with us at home. I remember spending most of the summer outdoors in the woods building little houses with my brother or doing stuff by myself. I have to say that of all the bloggers on this site you seem to enjoy your kids most. I keep wanting to do a body swap with them a la ” Freaky Friday”

    • Diana

      I should add that the summer holiday here are three months long. Good times were had.

  • thisshortenough

    We have Gaeltachts and a couple of other types of sleep away camps here in Ireland but they all cater for teenagers and nearly everyone has been to them at least once. But early childhood? We just played together on the street. I remember one time staying out until half 10 just talking with other kids from the road and I didn’t even realise the time till my mam called me in.

    • thisshortenough

      Also these camps all last about 3 weeks at a time and with Ireland being so small there’s never a real sense of being incredibly isolated from family.

  • rmw10c

    I think that seven is too young for summer camp anyway. However, just because you think your kids are “just like you” doesn’t mean that they would necessarily have the same experience at camp that you had. I went to a one week church camp every summer from the time I was eight until I was eightteen, and then worked as a camp counselor during college. It is an experience I would not trade for anything. Please let your kids be the ones to decide if they want to go to camp. Then you can do research and find out some good one-week camp options for them. This isn’t the 1920s. There are some camps that completely revolve around art and music! Imagine that!

  • Reader

    Camp is for the benefit of children. Those that attend learn social skills, make new friends, get exercise, and stay active and healthy. (Staying at home watching TV would not be a good option). I send my four children to camp every single day all summer, even though I stay at home (daycare being too expensive full-time).

    The baby goes 3 hours a day to a nursery onsite for parents using the gym (and loves it; home is boring!), 3 year-old goes 3 hours a day (most I could find), and ages 4 and up go 5-7 hours a day. I do not regret a minute of it. I work hard to budget to spend a lot on their summer camps. I don’t want them just sitting around, whining to watch TV. I know they are active and busy ALL summer.

    And I would not want to stay home with them all summer, either! Give camp a chance. My kids LOVE camp. The ones they like best (we mix and match various camps) they ask to do again next year. It’s a gift to be able to send them and give them these experiences. And I need to time to keep up the housework and everything running, to make it look less like a zoo.