What do you call someone who’s immersed in summer sleep-away camp, is lonely and annoying, and demands attention from camp personnel almost every day?
Worse than poison ivy, today’s camp parents are itching to control every aspect of their children’s daily lives at camp--the very place meant to teach independence and responsibility _away_ from Mom and Dad.
“It kills them not to know that Johnny’s on the basketball court right now, or in the bathroom, or changing his shirt,” says a camp association executive. “Parents expect a totally different kind of communication than they did years ago.”
And at so-called “high end” sleep-away camps—which charge $10,000 summer “tuition”—parents get special treatment from a “parent coordinator,” one of whom describes her job as “almost like a hotel concierge listening to a client’s needs.”
Those needs often include parents’ demands for instant access to their kids, through webcams, cell phones, texting and email. Some parents try to bypass camp directors entirely by smuggling cell phones to their children in hollowed-out books or sewn into stuffed animals. Camp counselors and administrators--in addition to their primary job of looking after their young charges--spend hours each day taking and posting pictures of kids for their high-maintenance parents.
“I have parents calling and saying they saw their child in the background of a picture of other children and he didn’t look happy, or his face looked red, has he been putting on enough suntan lotion, or I haven’t seen my child and I have seen a lot of other children, is my child so depressed he doesn’t want to be in a picture?” says a long-time camp director.
Why the increase in parents-gone-wild? “Nobody goes to school for how to send your child away from you,” explains a parent liaison, noting that in a post-9/11 world, parents need help to “become independent.” In fact, says another camp director, homesick campers aren’t nearly as big a problem as “kid-sick” parents.
Tell us what you think: Should summer camps return to the days of no cameras, no cell phones, no parents? Do parents have a right to know how their kids are spending their time away from home?