I’m Not Sending My Kids to Summer Camp

I was a summer camp kid. Not all summer long, like those depicted in movies like The Parent Trap or Camp Nowhere, but I did have my experience of counselors, arts and crafts, and the buddy system at the waterfront. Yet, at this point in my motherhood journey, I don’t see those things in my children’s future.

There is certainly something to be said for summer camp experiences. They can be a wonderful opportunity for kids to experience new things, make friends, and get outdoors. Additionally, they’re a great resource for working parents who rely on them during the summers when school is out. Even stay-at-home parents may choose a summer camp just to break up the monotony of the warmer months and give themselves a breather here and there–and that’s totally okay!

But as kids transition from school to summer, camps aren’t on my agenda for a couple of reasons.

I have a luxury that I’m not going to waste.

As a working mom who has the privilege of having a couple of months off in the summer, I’m choosing to be with my kids 24/7 instead of sending them to camp. I view this break in our routine as a luxury that isn’t afforded to everyone, and as such, I’m going to fully embrace it.

Do I sometimes feel overwhelmed? Absolutely. Do we have days where the bickering doesn’t end and I’m guilty of snapping? Definitely. But it’s a small price to pay to experience the absolute freedom of being together with no agenda. We fill our days with our own adventures, outside time, arts and crafts, and even making new friends. Trips to the playground, hanging out by the water, local activities at our library or community center . . . each day is a blank canvas on which to paint the memories of my little ones’ childhood summers.

In today’s world, it’s such an uncommon experience to be unburdened by work, school, and extracurriculars that I’m one hundred percent leaning into summer while my children are still young and want to hang out with their mom. I know this isn’t realistic or feasible for every family, which is why I don’t want to let one minute of it pass me by.

I’m also anxious.

There is a less blissful undercurrent beneath the joviality of carefree days with my kids. Summer camp has lost some of its charm for me because of all the potential dangers. I’m sure awful things were occurring at summer camps when I was a kid in the ‘90s. But I was unaware, and things like sleepovers and summer camps weren’t as touchy a subject among parents. Kids, including myself, did a lot of things many parents wouldn’t dream of allowing their children to do today.

As society talks more openly about situations children can and have encountered, like bullying and abuse, and awareness increases, so does the debate about whether or not once quintessential childhood experiences are still safe. So, too, does my anxiety about letting my kids participate in these things.

Sleepovers are out of the question, which makes a sleep away summer camp off the table. But even day camps can seem dangerous. I would be lying if I said my reasons for not sending them to summer camp were only due to my selfishness of wanting to soak in every moment with them and not also because of my anxiety of not knowing who is with them at every moment.

Privilege Over Paranoia

In the end, I like to think my fears take a backseat to my desire to wake up with my kids each morning and say, “What do you want to do today?” My privilege of summers off perfectly suits both my motherly selfishness and anxiety in that it means I don’t have to send my kids to summer camp if I don’t want to–which, I don’t.

I realize we may have tough conversations in the future should any one of my three children want to go to summer camp. Maybe I’ll compromise. Maybe my perspective will change. “I’ll never . . .” is a curse of parenthood I try not to subscribe to. But for now, I’m keeping them at home–at Camp Mom.

Looking for spots to check out with your kids? Check out our Metro Detroit Summer Activities from A to Z list!


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