Childrearing

I Don’t Get Why Parents Don’t Send Their Kids To Overnight Camp

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parent trap

Like most mothers after school ended, I was in a conversation with a mother who has a daughter the same age as my own. She asked what my daughter was doing for the summer and I mentioned that she was going to overnight camp. “For how long?” she asked.

“For a month,” I answered.

This woman’s mouth dropped as if I just said, “I hate my daughter. I also have genital herpes.” (Which I don’t.) She then added that she could never send her 9-year-old to overnight camp for two reasons and I’m not sure which reason was more ridiculous. The first reason was that her daughter didn’t know how to shower on her own yet, so how could she possibly send her to overnight camp? The second reason was, “I’m not ready for her to be gone that long from me.”

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Uh? I wanted to say, “Well, you may not be ready, but she probably is.” In fact, I wanted to say, “She probably would really enjoy some time away from you if you think she still needs help bathing.”

But I bit my tongue. Truthfully, I don’t give a shit if you send your kid to overnight camp or not, but I do care about pathetic reasons behind not sending your kid to overnight camp (Money is a good reason to NOT send your kids to camp. She doesn’t know how to shower is not.)

When my daughter first went away to overnight camp, two years ago, I too was worried about her showering and changing her clothes. Guess what? She came back off the bus wearing the exact same outfit she wore on the bus when she left for camp, her hair was a mess as if she hadn’t once brushed it, and I highly doubt she showered more than once every two weeks. I couldn’t even smell her when she hugged me. When she did, I think I pulled away and I said something like, “My god. I missed you. But you smell like garbage!”

We went home and I immediately put her in the shower. Her feet were so black that the water turned black as well. Oh well. I suppose one of the beauty of overnight camp is that you don’t have your mother screaming, “You have to take a shower!”

As for, “I’m not ready for my daughter to be gone that long from me!” Well, neither was/am I! I miss her terribly when she’s gone. But, I hate to tell you this parents who “aren’t ready,” but your children probably are. I realize that not all kids love overnight camp, but what they learn at overnight camp is priceless.

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126 Comments

  1. Paul White

    July 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    how the hell do you afford a camp that runs for a month?
    And is there one for toddlers?

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      There may be, but all the ones I found start at about 6 years old.

    • CrazyFor Kate

      July 10, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      You could start with day camp when they’re about four or five as a test. I’ve never heard of a camp starting lower than seven, six at the minimum.

    • Psych Student

      July 14, 2013 at 3:50 am

      “And is there one for toddlers?” Hahaha! I’m still chuckling. 🙂

  2. Andrea

    July 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    While money is a HUGE factor (what the heck why are they SO expensive??!!??), I totally agree: if you can afford it, they most definitely should go. They grow leaps and bounds emotionally and mentally, they relish their independence (while still being supervised), they learn new things, get used to new environments, meet new people, the list goes on and on.

    I can only afford a week of sleep away summer camp, and my children look forward to it all summer. They absolutely LOVE it.

    Do I miss them? Sure I do. Do they miss me? Possibly. But it’s good for ALL of us. And I won’t even mention the crazy weird feeling of freedom my husband and I experience during that week! And no it’s not just loud sex (although that is good too), but the freedom to eat whatever the hell we want, whenever we want and not having to ask each other: “where do we have to shuttle our kids to tonight?”. The freedom to watch whatever the hell we want on TV. It’s AWESOME.

    • Paul White

      July 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      You mean I shouldn’t be watching Aliens, Rambo and True Lies with Sam in the room? Aaa, crap 🙁

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      LOL, I don’t know how old Sam is. When mine were little they didn’t notice as much. But I just can’t watch things like “Cold Case Files” with my 10 year old around..it freaks him out.

    • CB

      July 10, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Financially, camps through organizations like the Girl Scouts (which has none of the icky homophobia/hyper conservative politics at the national level of the Boy Scouts!) are often a good bet, at least for girls (duh). I worked at one, and they bent over backwards to make sure kids got to camp. Even if you don’t want to join a troop, you can probably register as a Juliette (an individual Scout) and still get access. Just putting it out there for parents who might be interested!

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      The boy scout camps are also WAY cheaper: my son went for a week for $300. However, I would guess they are cheaper because they are staffed by more volunteers?

      I suppose there must be other alternatives as well: Boys and Girls Clubs? I would say church-based, except I found those to be equally expensive.

    • Justme

      July 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Or perhaps they are also cheaper because of the dues they are backed by a financially wealthy organization? I don’t mean that in a rude way, but because dues from each member are sent into the main organization each month some of which MUST be going to help run those camps, thus keeping the cost down. Does that make sense? Whereas camps that are unaffiliated with a large organization might have to charge more in order to cover all the costs of running the camp and providing food, shelter and activities for the camper.

      I also wonder if some camps are also cheaper because of materials needed. Sleeping in tents and cooking your own food over the campfire is going to be significantly cheaper than sleeping in an air-conditioned bunkhouse and eating in a dining hall.

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Yes total sense. I know that the BSA’s membership fees and other donations go towards things like facility maintenance. So that is covered by the millions of members that pay a low yearly fee. And then I guess what I pay for when I send my kids there covers only things like materials, food, and maybe some staff. Unlike other camps where everything must be covered by my fee. So yeah it makes sense.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      July 11, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Justme, I am a volunteer with Girl Scouts. I work at the Service Unit level which means I oversee the 30+ troops in my city and I work fairly close with our local council which over sees the 400 or so troops in the local 5 counties we serve. So I have a pretty good ideal of how the money is spent.
      The yearly dues (use to be $12 and is now $15) that each registered girl scout pays every year and is sent to the national headquarters is used for insurance for the girls. A part of it may go towards programs, but the majority of it is for insurance. That way if a girl is hurt during an approved girl scout activity or event then any medical expenses is covered.
      Most events like camp are put on and covered by that area’s local council which gets funding through grants from United Way and through product sells–mainly cookies. Each council sets the price for cookies that is why they can vary across the nation. For my area it is $3.50 a box. I believe the baker gets about .45 cents for each box, and then the troops (depending on the age level and how many boxes they sell) keeps 50 to 70 cents per box. The rest of the money stays in that local council to pay for things like keeping the cost of camps low, and maintaining up keep on their properties.
      Also many councils across the nation will provide scholarships for girls who want to go to camp but the families can not afford even the discount rate. they can apply for a scholarship and get up to half of the cost off.
      So when you see the girls out there selling cookies, remember you are not just helping that one troop meet their goals you are also helping other girls in your community.

    • Justme

      July 11, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Okay…so I was right in saying that the camp prices are kept low because of finances at a higher level that are allocated to help run camps.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      July 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

      In part yes, but it varies depending on each council. But also a large portion a lot of the funding for camps also come cookie sales. The cookie sales–at least in my council–are vital to keeping us up and running. If we were unable to do the cookie sales our whole council would have to scale back tremendously and raise prices for camps.

  3. Véronique Houde

    July 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I have to admit that I’m totally starting to save money right now for these kinds of things for when my child gets old enough to attend! I myself only went as a teen to a sleep away camp and only for a week at a time, but god I LOVED LOVED LOVED it!!! Being in the middle of nowhere, sleeping in these tent building contraptions, camp fires, camp food, the singing, the sports, the swimming… I agree that, if you can afford to send your kids, they will definitely come away from the experience with great memories and qualities!!!

  4. Emily

    July 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Seriously, there are SO many good things about the independence and new knowledge kids gain at camp. Take a gander at “Homesick and Happy” by Michael Thompson. He has also written a number of articles on how great camp is.

  5. Sarah

    July 10, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I don’t know if I could send my kid away from me for a whole month. A week, tops. When I was a kid, the longest I ever spent away from my parents was a week. I think I would have gotten lonely any longer than that. But I totally agree that camp is fun. Well, little girls are kinda crazy and gang-like, and I remember some of that from when I was a kid, too, but overall the memories are good.

    We usually went to a week long overnight camp every summer, and my parents were certainly not wealthy, but stuff has changed and those places are super expensive now. I think we sometimes attended Christian camps which were a little cheaper?

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      They may have been then..I haven’t found one in the southeast that’s any cheaper than the regular ones.

  6. Zettai

    July 10, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    I would have done ANYTHING to be allowed to go to one of these camps as a kid! Definitely planning on sending the future ones when they’re old enough. If the money’s there, the break for kid and parent is a win-win.

  7. Tea

    July 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    My parents could never afford it. The most I could do was Asthma camp and Visual Impairment camp for a week each, and those were with tuition grants. I would have killed to go to a real, month-long overnight camp, but the big factor was money.

  8. b

    July 10, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    such a funny article! I totally lost it over, “I hate my daughter. I also have gentile herpes.”

    • Justme

      July 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      I think “gentile herpes” is more hilarious than the entire article.

  9. M

    July 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I would have loved camp too, but my mom was like the woman in the article–SHE wasn’t (ever) ready for me to leave. You know what? I wasn’t ready when my daughter started walking, talking, or going to daycare. But my daughter certainly was, and it’s about what she’s ready for and not me. Our kids’ milestones are THEIRS.

    • Justme

      July 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      I think the first big lesson of parenthood is that it’s about THEM and not about US.

    • AP

      July 12, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      If you don’t let kids do things when they’re ready to- within reason- you’ll miss the “window” when the excitement of something new and grown up empowers them to do something scary.

  10. Justme

    July 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I loved, loved, LOVED this article. You don’t necessarily have to send your child away for a whole month, but a week at sleepaway camp can be so beneficial for everyone in the family.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the reasoning – you have to put your own feelings aside and examine your child…are they ready and willing to go? Can you financially afford it? Then why the heck not?!

  11. Pzonks

    July 10, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Gah, THIS could have been my 12 year old niece. My Mom and I offered to PAY for her to go to a camp 90 minutes from home for a week. The kid was thrilled at the activities, my brother was on board, but my sister in law? She nixed it, said she couldn’t believe my bother was willing to send their BABY so far away. She said she’d MAYBE consider sending the kid to camp when she’s around 15 or so. She just cannot see that the kid is ready and that camp would be a really great thing for her (she’s a shy, introverted kid that I KNOW would blossom at camp). All my sister in law can see is that SHE is not ready for the kid to go to camp.

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      At 15 she;s not gonna want to go. Usually a boyfriend will have something to do with that, but a tight knit group of friends who she cannot bear not to see for [insert period of time here] to go to a “boring camp with nothing to do” will also pose a problem.

      Best time for sleep away camp are the years between 7or 8 and 13 or 14. After that, they don’t want to.

    • Pzonks

      July 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      Exactly. We tried to point that out to my Sister in law, that the vast majority of the kids in the camp photos were tweens/early teens but nope, at 12 the kid is still a baby and far too young to go. The kid was concerned at first she’d have to be with “the little kids” but she actually would have been placed with older kids (12-16). My Sis-in-law used that against it too, that she didn’t want her baby exposed to older kids.

    • Justme

      July 10, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      I don’t know…I went to church camp every year when I was that age and I LOVED it because it was a totally different set of cute boys to hang out with.

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      I could be wrong about that. I just don’t see today’s teens wanting to unplug for a whole week without internet, iphones, ipads, etc. I hope I am wrong. My 13 year old is going this summer…we’ll see how many more times I can do that!

    • Justme

      July 10, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      Quite frankly…they won’t want to do it, but they NEED to do it. (And so do many adults!)

    • Pzonks

      July 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      I agree. I had hopes that she could do a regular overnight camp for a few years and then when she’s older I’d send her on an Outward Bound. But yeah, that’s not going to happen no matter how good it would do the kid.

    • Bobbloggerstein

      June 2, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      The problem is that camps(day or sleepaway) don’t know how to handle older kids. If I ran a camp I would never accept a first time camper older than 11 or 12. I would also transition 13 and 14 years old to CIT development programs. Camps would benefit by having their older campers be trained to be counselors.

    • Frances Locke

      July 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      I’m sure you know her better than I do (since I’m an internet stranger and all) but are you sure she’s just not keen on someone else paying for it? I would LOVE to be able to afford for my oldest to go to sleep away camp, but I would be embarrassed to have someone else pay for it. I might not say that, but that would be MY reason.

      That being said, I do find less expensive options so she’s not just sitting next to me all summer because I’m afraid to have her away from me, lol.

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      My parents pay for my kids to go. I don’t have a problem with it (my grandparents paid for ME to go), but I can see why that would be.

    • Pzonks

      July 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      No, who’s paying for it is not the reason, it really is all because my sister in law isn’t ready for the kid to be away from her. It made me pretty upset honestly because I KNOW my niece would have loved camp and I know she would have benefitted greatly from going to camp, in all the ways listed in the article. But her Mom’s lack of adventure and neediness kept her away from camp.

    • Jessie

      July 13, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      MYOB

    • Valeri Jones

      July 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm

      That sounds JUST LIKE my sister-in-law. My niece will be 16 this year and her mom won’t even let her get on the bus to school by herself in the mornings.

      One would think a teenage girl would be embarrassed by this, but this girl still crawls into bed between her parents every night. Personally, it squees me out just a bit to think about it. I could understand if she had, like, mental health problems or something. But she doesn’t. She’s just EXTREMELY baby-fied and her mom has made her that way. I mean, my SIL still talks to her in baby talk and insists on picking her clothes out every morning and sitting in the bathroom with her while she takes a shower, “in case she falls.” When she goes to her two-hour an evening band practices during the summer, my SIL sits in the bleachers and watches her like a hawk. Frankly, it’s beyond weird to me. I have step sons that are 16 and 17 and I let them watch my toddler for a few minutes while I run the grocery or whatever, but I would never even DREAM of letting my niece watch him while I went to the bathroom. And here I always thought girls were supposed to be more mature….?

  12. Alexandra

    July 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I’m glad my parents never sent me to an overnight camp, I was bullied a lot and a whole month of no friends and no parents either would’ve been absolutely horrible .___.

    • Rachel Sea

      July 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      Camp is different, there is more room there for more types of people, because kids come from all over. It is unlikely that you would have faced bullying there like you did at home.

    • Sara610

      July 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      I was bullied too, and summer camp was GREAT because none of the kids from school were there. I actually had friends at camp–it was a totally different set of peers. For three weeks every summer I was with other kids who all liked to do the same things as I did (I went to music camp) and I actually felt like I fit in for once.

    • Sheila

      July 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      Funny, I was never bullied at school or anywhere except for overnight camp-two full weeks of torture. I am a grown woman and I still have nightmare of what them b****** did to me.

    • meteor_echo

      July 11, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Amen to this. I’ve been bullied at overnight camn so much, I considered packing my things up and walking home for 2 days straight.

    • Alexandra

      July 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      I wasn’t bullied at camp, but I was the “reject”, so that’s why I’m glad I could at least come home after the day S:

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Sleep away camp is very different. You don’t usually run into your known people because they have kids from all over. Also, a good camp is usually very VERY attuned to bullying and interactions between kids because they have those kids 24/7 for a period of time.

      I know that for me personally I could be free of preconceived notions that kids I spent years with had about me so I was free to make friends that were in the same situation as me. I have the best memories ever of camp.

  13. Rachel Sea

    July 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    My mom is paranoid, so I never got to go to camp, but as a teenager I was a camp counselor, and riding instructor. Even the kids who had a hard start, because of homesickness, or lack of independence, absolutely blossomed by the end of the session. Kids thrive with measured time away from their parents where they get to stretch themselves in ways that are never required at home. I would do anything to make sure any kid of mine gets to go to sleep away camp, from age 7 and up.

  14. Sara610

    July 10, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I think you really summed it up at the very end: “Overnight camp is not about you”. Going away to camp teaches kids so many valuable skills, and it kills me to see parents depriving their kids of those experiences because it would be painful or inconvenient for them.

    Kids NEED time away from their parents. I have a cousin whose mother (my aunt) couldn’t stand the idea of her being far away, even to the point that my cousin was accepted to an excellent college to major in dance and had to turn it down for a closer (and far inferior) college because her mother wasn’t willing to have her go out of state. And now, not only is my cousin like a 21-year-old child because she never developed any self-reliance, but she resents the hell out of her mother and only spends time with her when she’s forced to.

    • Paul White

      July 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      That’s my thought. If my kid, at 10 or 12, can’t function in a supervised environment without me, I’ve really fucked up as a parent.

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Word, Paul. WORD.

    • Qqqqqqq

      July 12, 2013 at 10:23 pm

      My aunt (by marriage, I’d hate for anyone to think we were truly related) did the same thing with her children. My cousin’s upwards of 40, never married and never really dated, never moved out on her own, and spends all day on Facebook “Liking” things every 40 seconds or so. She’s a nice and fairly smart girl, so it’s just sad.

  15. G.E. Phillips

    July 10, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I went to sleep-away girl scout camp every summer between ages 9 and 13.. The first 4 years I went for 2 weeks, and that last summer I was there for 6 weeks. I would have kept going back, but they closed (RIP Camp Francis, Kent, CT 1930-1990. I’m not kidding; that place is sacred to me.) It was an old-school camp; no electricity in the A-frames where we slept, latrines to do your business in (which we also had to clean) and the “shower” was a faucet stuck to a tree with a board underneath. I know for a fact that I did not shower once the first 3 summers I was there–a swim in the lake every day kept me clean enough. But who cares? Camp was the BEST. I was so lucky to have that experience, and if I am able to and he wants to go, my son will also go to sleep-away camp.

  16. Erica

    July 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I’d love to send my girls to camp for a month. It’s out of our price range, though.

  17. SDA

    July 10, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    I think sleep-away is very important. I don’t see us ever doing it for an entire month though (unless high-school centered activity). Once my daughter is in school, our long weekends and visiting family will be pushed to be squeezed in all during the summer months. Also, we are a very outdoor active family and I will want to plan our own family-centered activities. So I don’t think that thinking a month is too long for someone personally is being selfish; but I do think that outright refusal of a child to get to gain some much needed independence is.

  18. allisonjayne

    July 10, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Oh I am soooo excited for when my kid is old enough to go to Camp Ten Oaks – it’s a week-long overnight camp for kids with LGBTTIQ parents and kids who are queer themselves. The best part is that it seems to usually be scheduled near our wedding anniversary! http://www.camptenoaks.org/what-we-do/camp-ten-oaks.aspx We’re already planning how we can celebrate without the kid.

    • Tea

      July 10, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      I know where I want to volunteer next summer! 😀

  19. Courtney Lynn

    July 10, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I went to a week-long camp every summer for 3 years starting at 9. I had a GREAT time! I looked forward to it and was disappointed when I was too old for it.

  20. Lindsey Sweet

    July 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Due to money, my DD is only going for a week, but she is sooo excited! i wish I could afford to send her for a month, but maybe next year. 🙂

  21. Sheila

    July 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I went to camp when I was 12 on a scholarship. My father had just died a few weeks before and my mother thought it would be good for me to get away. It was awful. For two straight weeks I was bullied by the rich girls and had no way out. I wanted to go home so bad but it would have disappointed my mother. The camp counselor a were oblivious. I have awful memories of overnight camp and would never send my kids.

    • Paul White

      July 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      That’s a risk, and I won’t downplay it, but the positives are worth it. If your kid hates it, you don’t have to send them back. If they love it? it can be a yearly thing that really helps build them up

    • Sheila

      July 10, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      Yea, can’t take that risk. These girls were brutal. I still never told my mother; she was so excited for me. I wish I had a positive experience like all the posters. I will just stick with day camps for my kids. that way, if there is a problem, I am close by. Yes, it is selfish but, seriously, being bullied day and night was traumatizing. I also work with kids, they way some treat the weakest link, makes you want to cry.

    • Paul White

      July 10, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Your being unable to take that risk is doing a disservice to your child. Your experience at camp, while bad, is atypical, and you’re keeping your children from a possibly great experience.

    • Sheila

      July 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      Oh, please, my kids are not suffering because they did not go to overnight camp. They have many great experiences. I asked all my kids if they missed out and they don’t feel they did. They met great friends at day camp and they have all camped overnight(s) with their Girl Scout Troops/Boy Scout Troops. You can’t do everything as a kid and I do not feel my kids are deprived. If one every showed an interest, I would have probably let them. No one did so all is good.

    • Justme

      July 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      Have you looked into sleep away Girl Scout or Boy Scout camps that your children could attend with members from their own troop? Camp doesn’t have to be a month long adventure and if they go with friends perhaps that could help ward off bullies

    • Sheila

      July 11, 2013 at 7:03 am

      Yes, my son’s troop goes for a week. He wants no part of it. My oldest son, who has a very different temperament, loved it. It is not for my youngest. I have to push him to do things i feel he would enjoy but this is one I don’t think will fly. I may look into it for my you gets daughter, she is very social. Thanks.

    • Lou

      July 11, 2013 at 4:39 am

      Paul, there are few other countries that have camps like these, and for those of us that live in a country where it doesn’t exist don’t have children at a disservice. Therefore I don’t understand how it could possibly be a disservice for a child in a country where they do exist to not attend an optional activity participated in by some.
      Aside from that, not every activity is a right fit for everyone. Camps included. That covers parents and children.

    • Tusconian

      July 11, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Good point. People who marvel at non-camp kids seem to realize that overnight camp is a tradition for only a very small demographic of people.

    • Zoe

      July 10, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      We don’t really have the months-long camp culture in Australia (our school summer holidays go for 5 or 6 weeks) but we had week-long school camps every year. I despised them with all my heart. Being separated from my parents was fine, but I was a bookish homebody and my alone time was precious to me. You don’t really get that at camp. I coped well with the settings/locations (usually out bush), but I hated my days being filled with scheduled activities and over-enthusiastic counsellors, not to mention being stuck with all my school classmates, many of which were not my friends, all day and night.

    • Sheila

      July 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      I, too, think that was the reason I was tormented. I was very quiet, almost mute, and an easy target. I also liked to be by myself to read. Reading was not part of the program. The structured the day so you really had no down time. I also liked my privacy and I did not get that in a cabin with a slew of other girls. Some enjoyed walking around the cabin naked and at 12, I was horrified by this behavior. Yes, I was very modest. Overnight camp is not for everyone. I have two very shy girls and they probably would not have done well in a overnight camp setting. My youngest daughter, maybe, but not them. My son went away on a class trip and called me on day two to come and get him. I was advised to leave him for the third night and I did. He still talks about that day and it has been two years. He hated it and was totally out of his comfort zone. Yes, I realize, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger but he absolutely got no enjoyment out of the trip and has nothing positive to say about it. I should have listened to him when he said he did not want to go.

    • Valeri Jones

      July 10, 2013 at 10:04 pm

      I find myself getting really angry with whoever keeps down voting all of your comments. It’s a little ridiculous. Nobody knows your kids like you do, and if you/they don’t feel comfortable with them going to overnight camp, then so effing what? Kids can be raised to be very happy, healthy, and well-adjusted in all types of environments. There is no commandment in the Bible that says your kids must go to sleep away camp to be successful adults.

      Grow up, whoever you are.

    • Kat

      July 10, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      Hear hear! As another commentator has remarked, summer camp is just not a part of Australian culture and yet we manage to produce our share of confident, resilient and well balanced kids.

    • Sheila

      July 11, 2013 at 6:59 am

      Thank you, I do appreciate this. My kids are 24 to 10. I have tried to provide them with great opportunities and do not feel they were deprived on iota. We also took in a fresh air child for six weeks. She started out a week but worked her way to six over the years. She eventually aged out but we keep in contact. I would never have agreed to take her at ten for a month. She got to know our family over the years. Plopping some kids in camp for weeks on end can be too much for many kids. Have a great day.

    • Paul White

      July 10, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      Yeah, over scheduling could be a problem; the one year my dad took charge of the camping it was definitely an issue. Hard driving type A that he is.

    • lea

      July 11, 2013 at 3:04 am

      Are you me? I too am Australian and I too HATED school camps, for all the reasons you mention and more!

    • m

      July 12, 2013 at 4:00 am

      This so much. Bookish homebodies ftw!

    • Véronique Houde

      July 11, 2013 at 12:44 am

      I think you need to work more on how to deal with bullying with your child rather than keeping her close in order to “protect her” from the bullying. Everyone gets bullied at some point. You can teach your child how to react appropriately to it, how to uplift her spirits and teach her to feel good with herself. You don’t need to keep her away from what might potentially be super awesome because YOU had a bad experience with it as a kid.

    • Sheila

      July 11, 2013 at 7:15 am

      Actually, I don’t feel I am over protective at all. My older girls are 18 and 21. The older one is going into her senior year of college for social work. She works at non profit agency and is also a manager at a supermarket. The other one is going to college, hours away, for nursing. She is a CPA and also has another job. Both have tons of friends. My oldest son just got his masters. I am bragging, yes, but I don’t think I need parenting advice, I actually should be giving it- I don’t because everyone raises their kids the way they see fit-overnight camp or not! I have two teen boys, also doing great. The youngest is shy but that is his personality! He has never been bullied as far as I know, he is huge so I don’t think so- and actually has quite a few good friends. My middle son is an honors student and actually received the citizen award in June for his 8th grade graduating class. Got a ten year old girl who is very outgoing and I don’t worry about her needing protecting! Thanks, but my kids spirits are fine and my husband and I are raising six incredible kids so I don’t feel I need any advice but thanks anyway, I know you meant well.

    • Sheila

      July 11, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      CNA, not CPA

    • Emily

      July 11, 2013 at 8:56 am

      It is unfortunate that you had such a negative experience. However, parents should be careful about extrapolating out their singular episode to everything their kid might face. I was bitten by a dog, and it was awful, but I haven’t made my kids avoid dogs forever. There are some great things about dogs, and not all dogs are the same.

    • Sheila

      July 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Again, I don’t do that. What don’t you people get? I would absolutely send my kids to camp if they really wanted to go and we could afford it. It is not like I was bullied at school and refuse to send them to school. Sleepover camp is not a must do for all kids. I have given my kids many opportunities and they are not deprived. Oh and by the way, I was bit by a dog and required a great deàl of stitches and painful shots in fist grade. I love dogs and have four.

    • Pzonks

      July 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      To be fair you DID say, ” I have awful memories of overnight camp and would never send my kids.”. I read that and think, “this person had a negative time at camp therefore she does not like camp and will not send her children to camp”.

      You said later on that you “wouldn’t take that risk” of letting your kids go to camp.

      Look, I get it, you had a bad experience and you have your reasons why you didn’t send your kids to overnight camp. You know your kids best but there’s no reason to jump down people’s throats when they are commenting on things you said.

    • Sheila

      July 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      You are right I did say that. However, if my son/daughter really, really wanted to go, I would probably look into it. My gut reaction was no when Ii read the article. They have never asked or shown an interest. I am not jumping down anyone’s throat, I feel I’ve been pretty patient with people here telling me basically I am depriving my kids of this wonderful experience because of what I went throat. And I need to build my kids spirits, that was classic. Oh, and I the simile of the dogs. Really, is overnight camp such a must in people’s lives?. I gave my reasons why I hated overnight camp and I do not project them on my kids so you can all sleep soundly tonight.

  22. Eva

    July 10, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I honesty can’t stand the judgmental tone behind this article … there are a million of right and wrong ways to raise children and even if you disagree with how someone is parenting, it doesn’t make you right. There is a lot of value in different types of things – as long as parents choose what their child likes and everyone is comfortable – great.

    • Justme

      July 10, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      That’s funny…it struck me as one of the least judgmental and narcissistic articles that Eckler has ever written.

    • Beagle321

      July 11, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      It’s tremendously judgmental and sanctimonious. She can’t “get” why someone wouldn’t send her kid to camp? I asked my son if he wanted to go, he said no. We talked about it, he still didn’t want to go. He said boy scout campouts are enough for him. I love spending summers with him, we have a great time. I won’t send him away at 8 years old (or 9, 10, 11 for that matter) if he doesn’t want to go. Just because Ms. Eckler values her free time more than spending time with her kids doesn’t mean I’m a helicopter mom for choosing to do what my son wants. Maybe Eckler can “get” that. Geez.

    • Justme

      July 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      I did say “least” not “no judgment whatsoever.” I also think her overarching theme is to put your own issues aside and do what’s best for your child…and in your case, you did. I’m sure there are plenty of parents that aren’t “ready” for their child to start walking, going to school, moving off to college or getting married but you don’t say “no” and hold them back for your own selfish reasons. You swallow your fears and wish them good luck. And I also didn’t get the impression that she was ONLY talking about long-term camp, but any sort of overnight camp.

  23. RandomHandprints

    July 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    My nine year old went to overnight camp for the first time this year and she loved it! Yay for summer camp and the parents who send their kids -even though it is really hard to do.

  24. VersionGirl

    July 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Normally I enjoy many articles on this site but this one comes across as really judgmental.

  25. EmmaFromÉire

    July 10, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    I’m Irish, and I grew up seeing American kids films or tv programmes where the kids got to go off to camp and I was SO BLOODY JEALOUS. In Ireland the best we have is the Gaeltacht, and Irish language college where you must speak Irish the entire time you’re there or you get sent home. It also pisses rain most days of the year, so there were loads of activities we couldn’t do.

    Honestly, if I had the opportunity to send my kid to the likes of an American camp, I would in a heartbeat. I was pretty quiet and introverted up until I started going on trips abroad with my debate team in school, just being away from my parents for a measured amount of time, and around lots of other people my age really brought me out of my shell. If you can afford it, go for it!

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      I totally just read that with an Irish accent. LOL

  26. jendra_berri

    July 10, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I hope I can afford to send my son to camp when he’s a kid. I was able to do it a couple times through Brownies and Guides. I had fun, and then when it wasn’t fun it still built character. It never occurred to me that my mom might miss me.

  27. jessica

    July 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I was way too disturbed by the fact that there is a nine year old out there who cannot shower without her parents help to finish reading this article. How and why?

    • Andrea

      July 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Who the fuck knows, but nothing surprises me anymore in this era of helicopter parenting. I have heard of parents that are still wiping bums of 10 year old boys.

    • Véronique Houde

      July 11, 2013 at 12:41 am

      When I used to work on cruise ships, the chief engineer (big man on the ship) had his wife and two kids (7 and 5) come join him for about a month. We had the AWESOME privilege of watching these two kids that only spoke italian for the entire time. I remember the 5 year old going to the bathroom and asking me to wipe his poopy butt. Ew… Why is it that a five year old can’t wipe his own poop, exactly??

    • Lou

      July 11, 2013 at 4:45 am

      I have very long hair with tight ringlets, at 9 I struggled getting all the shampoo out, so I used to have a shower, shampoo my hair, rinse it to the best of my childhood ability, then my Mum would finish rinsing it out in the bathroom sink. It was how I learned to rinse it.
      I don’t think that’s so terrible, but technically at 9 years old I needed help with one aspect of showering.

    • Tusconian

      July 11, 2013 at 10:35 am

      This is a good point. I always wonder about people who condemn the family of any child over the age of six who can’t control 100% of their grooming, especially when it comes to hair. Like, do all their kids have just the finest, most stick straight utilitarian haircuts in the universe? Because not everyone’s hair just kind of falls down and looks ok after washing. And you know these are the same people who’d be appalled if all the curly haired kids came up to the school with their hair sticking out or matted into dreads….

    • jessica

      July 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Wow. That is an awful lot of judgement to make while simultaneously claiming that judging others is wrong. Though I will admit I do prefer the wild and natural hair look in both kids and adults.

    • Tusconian

      July 12, 2013 at 10:32 am

      I am not seeing where I’m making a judgement. I’m sorry that everyone isn’t completely fucking destroying their hair to conform to what you think is cute. I can 150% promise you that if you’d seen my hair unbrushed for several days as a child, you’d change your tune on a dime, because newsflash, not everyone’s hair looks like cute bedhead or windswept straight/wavy hair if they leave it alone. And even fine, straight hair, if never brushed or combed, don’t look “wild and natural,” it looks disgusting and turns into mats. Having had matted hair, I honestly don’t care how fine haired people want others to look, because it LITERALLY AND PAINFULLY DESTROYS HAIR. My hair was practically to my butt before age 11 and after my dad allowed it to get matted, it had to be cut off, but not before it fucking HURT A WHOLE LOT. And my hair hasn’t been the same since. That was 12 years ago.

    • jessica

      July 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      Again with the judgements. I’m not asking that anyone conform to what I think is cute. I’m just saying that parenting often means giving up a lot of control and accepting that letting your kids do things on their own is alright and even beneficial to them in the long run, even if the end result isn’t quite perfect. I have thick curly hair and a lot of experience with the whole unintentional dreadlock thing (especially the summer I went to sleep a way camp when I was 9 and I swear I did brush my hair every single day but still ended up with a whole bunch of mats in there that had to be cut out… luckily they were on the bottom. I guess my brush didn’t penetrate fully when I brushed from the top only). Also, as I’d like to point out, there is a HUGE difference between helping your kid brush out his or her hair after bathing and actually standing inside the bathroom while he or she is bathing and assisting with the whole washing process. The second is what I think is weird. Sorry you had to cut your hair off after it hurt a whole lot though. That sucks. I’ve been there.

    • Psych Student

      July 14, 2013 at 3:39 am

      Hooray for wild and natural hair!

    • Justme

      July 11, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      I knew a girl who as a high school senior….her mother still curled her hair for her every morning.

    • Ptownsteveschick

      July 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      My mom had to brush my butt length extremely thick and curly hair, until I was 13 and hacked it all off. It was literally too hard for me to brush on my own, and when I got tired of being tied to her doing it, I cut the tie, literally haha.

    • jessica

      July 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Same on the hair thing. I’m of mixed race. Still, by the age of 9 I was absolutely dead set on keeping my parents out of the bathroom and caring for myself. For me it was a privacy thing. I guess I was an early bloomer in the whole teenage outlook sense of wanting (DEMANDING) privacy and independence. I will admit that my stubborn-ness did lead to some truly bad hair days. But I was willing to pay that price at the time.

  28. Tusconian

    July 10, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Uh, well…

    1- Money. My parents only ever sent me to day camps, and even those were expensive for them. We were hardly impoverished. And even if we could have, the only people I know who went to sleep away camp are very wealthy and from very, very similar backgrounds. Zero diversity is not a good place to send a kid who is even a little bit different even if money isn’t an issue.

    2- A month is actually a long time for a 9 year old to be away from home, whether or not her parents are crazy helicoptering. I honestly don’t know anyone who’d let their kid be gone that long before age 12, and the overbearing butt-wiping shower-helping helicopter parents described are a completely foreign concept to me.

    3- Not all children are lovely happy social butterflies that fit right in once they find the “right” huge massive group of friends. Despite what everyone’s saying in the comments, almost everyone I know who went to sleep away camp in middle school was bullied. The only exceptions were girls who were bullies in school themselves. And if you miss year one, too bad, so sad, it seems like you’ll never be part of the group.

    4- Not all children are the same in general. Some 9 year olds can be away for weeks, and some flat out can’t.

    • Trisha

      July 11, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Thanks, some are not getting it. I am a working mother but as a teacher, I have summers off. Sending my kids to camp for a month, at any age, would not be for us. I like to go camping as a family in our old pop-up for a couple of weeks. A month would eat up a lot of our summer. Not the same thing but my kids had a blast running around the campground with new and old friends. Overnight camp is great for some kids but not for all. Personally, I think a month is a long time for a nine year old. Judge away. And I am totally not a helicopter, some would say, quite the opposite.

    • Justme

      July 11, 2013 at 6:58 am

      Or maybe some people understand that the author is not talking strictly about month long camps, but sleepaway camps in general…most of which are much shorter in length.

    • Tusconian

      July 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      Even a week away is long for many 9 year olds. And it’s expensive at any age. I do wish my parents had sent me when I was a little older, BUT, they had their own reasons for not doing so, none of which were “our 13 year old can’t shower without supervision.” Looking back, I suspect I would not have fit in with the typical camp-going girls. Going to sleep away camp is only an expectation for a very narrow demographic, so when someone says “I don’t get why people don’t send their kids to sleep away camp,” it honestly reads as “I don’t understand that not all people are upper middle class suburban East-coast white Americans who are almost definitely Reform Jewish or mainstream Christian.” I do wish I’d been able to go to camp, but I also wish I’d gone to boarding school, gotten horseback riding lessons, and been allowed to go off and drink in the woods with the public schools kids. Those all would have been very exciting experiences for me, which almost certainly wouldn’t have ended in disaster, but I am also not somehow lacking as an adult because I didn’t experience them.

    • Justme

      July 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      I think her overarching message is that our children might be ready for experiences even when the parents aren’t ready to release them to those experiences. We must be able to put ourselves and our own insecurities or fears on the backburner and allow our children to experience whatever things they are interested in, whether it is camp, riding their bike to school, moving across the country for college or taking that overseas job.

    • Tusconian

      July 12, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Sure, but it was wrapped up in a big package of “everyone is wrecking their kids by not conforming to my personal wealthy WASP traditions.” There are a lot of people who can’t send their kids to camp even if the kids want to go, or won’t for reasons other than being butt-wiping helicopter parents. In the comments, people are arguing with a woman who said she wouldn’t because her kid DOESN’T WANT TO, and telling people who had bad experiences that they must be wrong and shouldn’t let pretty major experiences affect everything. That’s unreasonable.

    • Justme

      July 12, 2013 at 10:52 am

      Okay. I feel differently.

    • Tusconian

      July 12, 2013 at 10:38 am

      And seriously, a 9 year old and a 19 year old are at completely different stages of life. A 9 year old shouldn’t just be allowed to do whatever they want because they want to, someone looking at overseas jobs or college campuses is an adult and could theoretically do those things without parental permission.

    • Justme

      July 12, 2013 at 10:54 am

      Yes. But the mindset of the parents can be the same and a guilt-trip from a mother can do a world of harm to a child (or young adult) who has the desires to branch out, take a risk and try something new.

  29. Jessie

    July 10, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Wow, Rebecca. I applaud you. This is probably one of the first articles that I like from you, but that aside, you give some very solid wisdom here. It’s not about whether YOU’RE ready to let your baby fly, it’s about when THEY are ready. And even if they’re not entirely ready because they’re unsure about testing their wings, it’s almost a guarantee that they will have gotten past their initial fears by the end of a week. Bravo. 🙂

  30. Justme

    July 11, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Maybe I’m the only one…but I didn’t get the message that Rebecca was advocating sending your child away for a month long camp, but instead trying not to hold your kids back from potentially valuable experiences just because you’re not ready to let them fly the nest for a little bit of time. I think that’s a concept that everyone can understand, regardless of your feelings on sleep-away camp. There are plenty of “camps” that are MUCH shorter than a month long and can be catered to your child’s interests – music, art, sports, science etc.

  31. kims

    July 11, 2013 at 7:23 am

    i’m hoping to be able to send my daughter next year or the year after (financial reasons). i’m just wondering – the 1st time she went, did she have a meltdown when it was time for her to go? my daughter has been in daycamp for the last 2 summers, & even though its just for the day & she comes home at dinnertime, she totally freaks out on the 1st day. she never does it for the 1st day of school.

  32. CW

    July 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    I definitely wouldn’t send a child at 7 or even 9, but my oldest will be almost 12 next summer and I’m thinking of sending her to Interlochen if we can swing it financially and she gets accepted. She’ll be going into 7th grade and I’d like to start building up her college application resume.

    • Sara610

      July 11, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      My mom went to Interlochen every summer from the age of eight to her graduation from high school. That was back when the only option was 8 weeks, and the only time the kids saw their parents was during Parents’ Weekend, halfway through the session. She said she cried when her parents dropped her off because she didn’t want to leave them, then she cried again when they came to pick her up at the end of the summer because she didn’t want to leave. 🙂

    • CW

      July 11, 2013 at 10:17 pm

      My mom went to Interlochen as well and still is friends with some of the women she met there almost half a century later.

    • Justme

      July 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      I had to Google real quick to make sure you weren’t wanting to send your twelve-year-old off to Interlaken, Switzerland (the spellings are different, but they sound the same) because I thought that might be a REALLY long flight for a preteen by themselves!

  33. m

    July 12, 2013 at 3:55 am

    I was a very shy and attached to my family as a kid, and would have absolutely hated to go to a camp. I was in scouts and even the weekend camps were quite awful to me… Felt so homesick. What I loved the most was sitting in my own room and reading a book. So it also depends on your child whether you should send them to camp or not.

  34. anon

    July 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    This is a sweet, smart article with an unfortunate, click-grubbing headline. And I think some readers commented before reading the whole thing.

  35. Allyson_et_al

    July 15, 2013 at 12:58 am

    I just picked my 10-year-old son up from two weeks of camp, and dropped my 12-year-old daughter off for her two weeks. (Normally they go at the same time, but this year the sessions just didn’t line up.) It’s a (mellow, inclusive) Presbyterian camp and relatively inexpensive, but even so my father-in-law helps pay for it or we could never swing it. Both kids started at around 7 or 8 years old with a 3-night session. My daughter has always been independent, and all but shoved us back into the car the first time we dropped her off. My son, on the other hand cried and cried his first time. I finally got him to agree to stay through dinnertime, and told him that if he was still unhappy, we’d come back and take him home that night. (I meant it, too. I was sure he’d settle in and have fun once we left, but I was absolutely not going to make him stay if he was really sad or scared.) Sure enough, the camp director called me that night to say he was fine and didn’t want to leave. They love going every summer for a week or two, and will probably continue going as campers, CIT’s, and counselors through high school. That said, overnight camp isn’t for everybody, and it sure as hell isn’t cheap. So I do get why a lot of people don’t do it, as long as their reasons aren’t about not wanting to let their kids out of their sight, even for a week.

  36. NYCNanny

    July 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I grew up in a very upper-middle class NYC suburb (Hello neighbor Clinton.)
    Every single one of my friends went away to overnight camp for 8 weeks ($8,000/kid.)
    I was the only one who didn’t go. And THANK GOD!!!!
    My family traveled every summer to far, far away third world countries. It was honestly the best part of my life…so far.
    I am so so so thankful I never went to camp. So I didn’t experience “color wars”…
    I got 2 months of amazing family time in amazing, tropical, so-different-from-home locales. Yey!

  37. shainamaydel

    July 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Wish my parents could read this…they didn’t send me to sleepaway camp until i was 14. I’m a very picky eater with issues trying new things…that first summer at camp was the first time i tried pasta. or scrambled eggs. or any form of vegetable. away from the pressure of my family, with new friends who didn’t know my past, i was able to seriously blossom. my mom later admitted she wished she’d sent me years earlier!

    And as a Jew, most of my friends went to Jewish sleep-away camps. i can play “Jewish Geography” with almost any Jewish person from the Northeast and find that they went to camp with someone i know (or they know someone who did). I’m still bitter that I never got that experience. Dammit.

  38. Pingback: I Got A Preview Of Empty Nest Syndrome - Mommyish

  39. Angelica Matthews

    October 15, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Any nine year old child who cannot shower on their own should be checked by doctors for mental impairment. Having other nine year old teach you to shower is just creepy. Dear heavens, I was in puberty by that age!

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