Ahh, summer sleep-away camp. The simplicity of kids experiencing the great outdoors, and spending time with good friends, new and old. Learning new skills and testing out budding independence. And receiving lavish gifts from parents that can make fellow campers feel unloved, and lonely. Wait, what?
Believe it or not, some summer camps have had to institute a "no packages" policy due to the overwhelming amount of mail and gifts parents are sending kids on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. And The Washington Post reports at some sleep-away camps that allow packages, staffers are sorting packages and mail for up to three hours each day.
These aren't your average care packages in many cases. From stuffed animals to outfits, candy, PJs, and in one case, a box of balloons, each containing a different gift, there is seemingly no limit to what parents are sending their campers. While their intentions are good, an unfortunate side effect of this practice is that kids who aren't receiving expensive presents are left feeling jealous and left out.
Mom Danya Lantz told The Post that her 8-year-old daughter was affected by the out-of-control package situation at camp this year. "I had to explain that the whole point of going to camp is about having fun, not getting things, but last year she was very upset and jealous. All her friends compared gifts, and she wrote home to tell me what others got. It made me really sad."
Some camps are dealing with this by banning gifts for their campers altogether. "Camp is the gift," says Lauren Bernstein, owner and director of Camp Walden New York. "It's about community, friendship, honing your skills, and playing games. It's not about who has what or who has more or which campers are in the position of power to say who gets candy and who doesn't."
Other camps, like Moshava California, are still allowing packages, but hoping they'll provide teachable moments for campers. "When parents send items for the whole cabin, it's a great way to teach kids to be givers, to take care of their friends," Ellie Bass, who runs the camp's front office, told The Post.
Still others are aiming for a happy medium. At Camp Sagniaw in Pennsylvania, for example, parents can send anything that fits in a 9 x 12 envelope.
I can imagine having my kids away and wanting to send them a crazy amount of gifts because I miss them and want them to know I am thinking of them. But I also understand where the camps are coming from; kids aren't there for the sole purpose of getting presents! So what's the answer? Keep your kids home and let them drive you crazy all summer like mine are doing. Um, no. That's not it, either...
What's your take?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.