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Price is right at Camp Mom

By on June 27, 2008

photo by Todd Ehlers

It’s interesting what people will give up when they have to. Equally interesting are the things people don’t give up even when they probably should. I see a lot of parents spending an enormous amount of money on summer camp for their kids. I get numerous fliers from my children’s school for the many day camps available in our city. Every year, for a moment or two, I consider signing up my kids for a summer of organized fun. Then I snap out of it. Was I actually considering sending my kids to science camp? After a long school year, do they really want to spend their summer vacation doing that?

If you send your kids to camp, don’t hate me. To each his own. I’m not against kids learning more, being leaders, being part of a team, meeting new friends, experiencing independence or enrichment opportunities. I know many families have both parents working full time, so day camps make perfect sense for them. Camps have a lot to offer. Some aren’t terribly costly or offer scholarships and financial aid. And then some camps are outrageous in cost but are important to families, such as sports, theater, scouts or dance camps. Many kids can raise funds to cover camp costs, too.

I believe strongly in fostering natural talent, nurturing development and keeping kids active to boost self-confidence. However, I simply won’t shell out a few hundred dollars for Hollywood camp, arts and crafts, woodworking, scrapbooking, jewelry, fishing and my favorite — CSI camp. These are a sampling of the camp options available for my kids. The cost is $100 for two hours per child. Don’t even get me started on the price of overnight camps.

My kids will be going to Camp Mom. Again. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Some days are relaxed and they sleep in, and other days are more structured and packed with fun. No, I’m not letting my kids sit around watching television, eating ice cream all day and getting fat. Our tents are made from blankets pulled off the beds and draped over tables and chairs. We play a lot of outdoor family games that I consider “disorganized” sports, such as obstacle courses, hopscotch, hula hoops, Frisbee, jump-rope, tag, hide-and-seek and I Spy. They have play dates, many fun outings, summer reading lists, crafts, photography and gardening, too. Sound familiar?

My point is that summer camp isn’t for everyone. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Camp Mom. It’s not a badge that tells the world you can’t afford your kids. You get to serve nutritious meals that your kids will remember fondly. Your local community offers many of the same activities that day camps offer, and they’re free or low-cost. Your kids aren’t the only people with cherished summer memories. You’ll have them, too.

I realize that if money needs to be cut from the budget, most parents won’t skimp on their kids. But if you can’t or shouldn’t fit camp tuition into your budget, don’t feel bad. You’re fortunate if you’re able to spend the summer with your children. You’re not skimping on anything! Whatever happened to the “lazy days of summer”? Giving kids a chance to do their own thing can boost creativity, and many kids are completely overscheduled during the school year. Do what’s right for your family and don’t feel guilty. Camp Mom is a lot of fun. You’re lucky if summer fun isn’t something you have to pay for. Sometimes, nothing is everything.

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