Yes, My Kids Go to Camp

There are two categories of online mommy shaming. One consists of  the articles and comments about how mothers do not do enough for their children. They are not careful enough, do not feed organic enough food, do not breast feed long enough, watch the children closely enough, do not provide enough enrichment.

In the second category, the one I feel like I see more often, are articles about how we are all doing too much for our kids. We are watching them too closely, hovering and helicoptering, giving out too many awards, not letting them play with machetes as children in the Amazon do, caring too much instead of sitting around drinking martinis and smoking, as our parents supposedly did.

Lately an article from this second category has been showing up on my Facebook feed a lot. It’s called Ten Ways to Give Your Child a 1970s Summer. It’s pretty mild as the mommy shaming goes. But it’s been bugging me, in large part because I was a child in the 1970s, and that was not my summer.

My summer, like my kids’ summer was spent primarily at camp, first day camp, then sleep away camp. Why? Because I, like my mother before me, work for a living. The funny thing about this piece is that I know all the things she’s talking about, I too built forts and played Simon (although a quick Google check will tell you it was invented in 1978, so the author and I probably remember it primarily from the 1980s) and watched a lot of TV.

But, I went to camp most of the day, every day, most of the summer.  There weren’t a lot of different options for camp, and I hated most of them. But I went to camp. In fact, so did a lot of the people I see re-posting this. I know, because some of them went to camp with me. We did not do these things all day every day, we did them part of the day some days. We remember them because it was different than our routine, but we did have a routine.

Today, my son did not want to go to camp. He went with his dad and sister to get a donut and drop off his sister, who did want to go to camp. He played Wii and iPad while I worked. He walked with me to the drugstore. I took him to the comic book store to buy some baseball  and Pokemon cards. We went out to lunch, then his friend came over and they played Wii. They watched the World Cup, they played soccer outside. It was a lovely day, I hope one day he remembers it fondly.

But the day before he went to an insanely expensive day camp. It’s an amazing place with options and opportunities galore. He played soccer there, too, with older kids he didn’t know. He also baked bread and made stop action animation videos. Then, he went to his Little League game. On Sunday he leaves for sleep away camp and a whole new set of experiences.

Today was lovely, but if that’s all that my son did every day, it would quit being lovely. I get the idea that parents are tired of feeling like they have to measure up to a parenting ideal and be involved in every second of their children’s lives. I don’t like the guilt that gets passed out to parents. But it’s no less noxious to hand out a false notion of “the good old days” and make parents feel that trying to do something different for their children, or trying to earn money with which to clothe and house their children, is somehow cheating their kids out of a “real summer.” Honestly, the “good old days” were not that good. Think of how many screwed up adults you know over the age of 40, they grew up in the 1970s eating that damned pineapple upside down cake the author is so fond of.

Here, summer break lasts two months and two months is a long time. There is time for lazy days full of TV and fort building. There’s time for Mommy to drink a beer while her children catch fireflies (if fireflies still existed). There’s also time for summer camp.

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