Ok, we all know that family. They are the ones scratching their heads about how to fill the hours and hours of “free time” for their kids this summer because their children had too much anxiety about camp, and mom and/or dad caved, thinking “well, I don’t think you should force a child to go.”
I know that family because it was my own. For whatever reason, my kids were never particularly “easy” about camp. Yes, some summers I did manage to get one or both off (when it was both, it felt like a total coup!), and like other parents in town, I gleefully looked forward to and indeed enjoyed more lazy “responsibility free” summer hours at the pool club after a few hours of work, or no work at all.
Ah, yes, the Chappaqua life for me. After expending a respectable amount of stay- at-home (and work too) energy all through the school year, it was a charmed July and August the moment that camp bus pulled up. A leisurely walk with a friend through the North County trail or into the woods at Whipporwill. A tennis game at Club Fit. Or, perhaps, a glorious jaunt to the city on Metro North to catch up with the Met or MOMA. Mom goof off ops galore! They were all the more “doable” those long summer days pre “pick up” from day camp, or on the couple times, we got them off to sleepaway camp too. I never felt any guilt about parting ways, knowing after all that we were paying a pretty penny for our kids’ daily entertainment via time spent with such enthusiastic , energetic hands (all those cute counselors! another dynamic, charming camp director!) and peers with whom they shared a host of activities. Visiting day was something I always genuinely looked forward to.
And yet, as “great a summer” as the kids appeared to sometimes have, late fall/winter would roll around, time to plan, and at different junctures, some version of an “I’m not going to camp” chorus would kick in. At one camp, I did determine that there were social issues that had caused considerable stress for one child, and I could feel my whole body reeling and later empathizing with my child’s disappointment and determination to avoid that all over again. Perhaps my own ambivalence was noted and capitalized on because the anti-camp campaigns could sometimes get pretty intense. (Sorry kids, you are young adults now, and I get to spill…just a little!)
I would like to add too, that while getting your kid to camp is a most noble goal, and creates wonderful experiences and memories, it’s also not the end of the world either if it doesn’t work out. Despite “all the free time,” we did have some great out of the box times together and those are the stuff of memories too. It just seemed a little hard at times at least till we got in some summer groove.
So it was with all this in mind that I thought a writer might check in with other parents who had similar experiences along with some expert resources in the area about any resistance to camp, whether you wish to call it separation anxiety or just plain old fear. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a pretty touchy topic…as parents did not beat down the writer’s door to share stories about difficulties getting their kids to camp, or to agree to camp at all. But the author (Eileen Gallagher) did gather some solid advice, checking in with many of our expert camp sponsors for additional commentary. We hope you find it helpful, and perhaps on social media when we post this story, you too will begin to spill freely about your own child’s anti camp sentiments and what you ultimately did about it. Stranger things have happened.
In the meantime, here’s to a happy summer for your own children…wishing you the peace you deserve, and your children, in camp or not, the time of their lives.
Grace Bennett is publisher and editor of The Inside Press, Inc.