Sleepaway Camp Is a Really Dumb Idea -- Unless You Hate Your Kids

Rant 83

Another school year's come and gone. Another hot, sunny summer is upon us. For kids, that's pure paradise.

Summer means tons of free time to hang out with friends. It means trips to the beach with the family, playing baseball with dad in the backyard, or helping mom out in the garden. Of course, for some kids it means packing up a suitcase and getting shipped off for a few months to sleepaway camp.

No parents. No pets. No neighbors. Just a long time away from mom and dad under the supervision of some stranger. Personally, I just don't get it.

I'm not a fan of camp in general; it's just not my thing. I can certainly understand the need for sending your kids to a day camp if both parents are working. But I will never understand why any parent would want to send their kids away to sleepaway camp for months at a time in the summer. I don't even mean teenagers. I'm talking about parents of kids in first, second, or third grade.

Is it so mom and dad can go take a cruise in the Caribbean without any kids? Is it just so they'll have some peace and quiet? Some alone time?

I became a parent so I could be ... a parent. I want to be with my kids. I want to spend time with them, not ship them off for a number of weeks. They grow up so incredibly fast as it is. There'll be plenty of "alone time" when they're off in college.

"But the kids love it? They have so much fun!" Yeah, I can hear you. Settle down. I'm sure there are kids who love it. Just like there are kids who probably can't wait to get out of their house and off to camp just so they can be away from their parents for the summer. But for those that truly do enjoy it, were they like that on day one of their first year? Or did they just learn to accept it at first and then slowly grow to enjoy it?

And then there's the food. Everyone I've talked to that sends their kids to sleepaway camp says the food is terrible. Their kids say it's awful. The skinny ones don't eat and lose a ton of weight, while the heavier campers just eat carbs all day and come back 10 pounds heavier. That's not even bad parenting, it's "no parenting." Letting young kids just choose whatever they want to eat all summer is a recipe for failure.

As far as I'm concerned, the only good to ever come out of sleepaway camp is Bill Murray's classic comedy Meatballs. Any other reason is just an excuse to put parenting on hold for a few months.

Do you send your kids to sleepaway camp?

Image via Steven Depolo/Flickr

kid activities, summer break, summer survival


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Kritika Kritika

I totally agree!

Kids should go abroad and learn about the world so they know that the American way isn't the only way...expand their horizons....let them learn culture...unless you're celebrating an anniversary or whatever just use the money you'd use for camp and go on vacation together.

Some of the most ignorant people I know have never been on an airplane and I feel so sad for them.


Emily Hoberg Roy

I could not disagree with you more on this.  One of the best things I did growing up was to go to sleep away camp. I started to go when I was 9 and would go for 3 weeks a summer several states away. I was an only child and this allowed me to become independent from my parents and to learn to deal with other kids in a different way. I honestly do not believe I would be the same person I am today without those experiences. I also think it was very healthy for my parents. 

Nichole Hare

I can understand if the camp is only for a week or two. I used to go to Girl Scout camp for a week or so in the summer, and I always had a really good time. It was something different for a change. But once it was time to head home, I was definitely ready, and my parents were too because they missed me. It was an appropriate amount of time. But camp for the whole summer? I would never do that to my son. I agree that they grow up so fast and being away from them for that long would be too much for me to bear.

Evaly... EvalynCarnate

I didnt even know camps existed that kept kids for more than a week or so at a time. There's NO way I'd send my kid some where for the entire summer! Daycamps are an awesome idea because they basically keep the same schedule as school and I can still pack a lunch and snack that I approve and know who she's with and that she'll be safely home at the end of the day. My daughter is only 6 though and wasnt very interested in camps...she mostly just wanted to move in with Nana and Grandma for the summer :-p

Emily Hoberg Roy

And to just add a bit more. I honestly believe my going away to summer camp is what allowed me to live abroad, move from my small town and go away to college, live in New York City and many other places.  I would not send my daughter away for the entire summer but if she is interested when she is older I will strongly encourage her to go for 2-3 weeks. And I have to say this title really bugged me.

nonmember avatar Shannon

I would absolutely send my kids to sleep-away camp as long as they enjoyed it. My husband and his brothers went every year for a week or two at a time and even became counselors once they were teenagers. Totally depends on the kid and the camp.

right... rightside

Totally agree - no overnight camp for my kids!  I've never been - I have an older cousin who was molested at soccer camp when she was 9, so it wasn't even something my parents would entertain under any circumstances.  I have a friend whose camp leader taught the girls in her care to perform oral sex (using just a cucumber, fortunately) when she was 10.  I've heard nothing good - stories range from unsettling to flat-out horrifying - and almost always the stuff goes on either at the hands of the counselors or with their blessing. 

It just doesn't make sense to me to hand my kids over to strangers for an extended period.  I don't allow strangers to care for them in my own home.  I wouldn't send my kids to a stranger's house for the weekend.  Summer camp is no different.  It's not that I'm worried about their safety so much as the influence of an authority figure that I have no knowledge of - it's a no-brainer for me.

bills... billsfan1104

First of all they dont go away for months at a time. They usually are gone for maybe six weeks at a time.

Why are you so judgemental? My daughter goes to epilepsy camp for a week and has done it for since she was 10. It gives her a chance to hang out with kids that are like her.

Damn this is the fifth blog in two days, that you writers are being judgemental and acts like you are so much better.

nonmember avatar yomamabear

I could not disagree more! I loved summer camp! I would beg my parents to send me every summer, then I was a counselor for the next 6 years. I went on an overnight with my gs troop when I was 8 & I was hooked. I loved learning how to sail, campfires, meeting new friends from all over the world, astronomy, arts/crafts, climbing towers, high ropes courses, horses, outdoor photography... It taught me confidence, strength, how to live with other people, independence and kept me busy while my friends at home were spending most of their summer raiding their parents liquor cabinet and running wild through the neighborhood bored. 12yrs after I last worked there I still talk to tons of people from camp, so it builds friendships that have long outlived my other childhood ones. I understand the outdoors is not for everyone, but I also went to a college sports and drama camp and it was awesome as well, had I not longed to sail so bad I would probably have continued doing both through high school.
My sister always stayed home since it wasn't for her, so she got time as an 'only child' and my parents never had a week we were both not there, so it was definitely not a way to ditch us for the summer, more a way to nurture a child who wanted desperately to be in the sea and in the woods. There are a lot of good things about sending your kids to summer camp, I'm thankful everyday my parents sent me, it molded me into the strong, brave, confident, independent woman I am today.

mande... manderspanders

I went to camp for 2 weeks at a time in the summers. I had the time of my life!

Your refusal to send your kids to camp speaks to the craziness that has overtaken parenting. Going to camp is a great way for kids to learn independence and social skills. Something that's dreadfully lacking due to helicopter parents with attitudes like this.

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