With another summer nearly in the books and sleep-away camps across the country in full swing, it’s important to keep camp protocol in mind.
Especially when you’re a parent.
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 told The New York Times. “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.
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 and no parents? Do parents have a right to know how their kids are spending their time away from home?
(A portion of this story was previously published as “Separation Anxiety: On Sending the Kids to Camp” on The Responsibility Project on 9/2/08)