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Camp Sucks When You’re Having Fun

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Every night as I tuck my five-year-old into bed, he turns to me and says, “Camp sucks, Mommy.” It drives me nuts. First of all, I think he actually loves camp. He comes home tired but happy and I can usually pry a few details out of him, like the fact that he played Ga-ga ball and learned the camp dance and saw his older cousins in the swimming pool. Once he even said “awesome!’ when I asked how his day was (this is a big deal for a kid like mine). But more often than not he’ll turn to me randomly and tell me how much it sucks, how it’s boring and how he’d rather be at home all day playing on my iPhone.

Turns out I’m not the only one. Countless friends have told me similar stories about how they’re shelling out tons of money to send their child to a top camp, only to have their child come home and tell them how horrible their day was. Like me, these parents instantly pick up the phone to call the camp director, only to be told that their kid is wonderful and well-adjusted and that he walks around with a big smile on his face all day long.

One friend in particular has her usually low-maintenance, easygoing five-year old tell her daily: “I got in seven fights today. I want to go to a new camp.” What happened, she’ll ask him, all concerned. “I don’t want to talk about it,” is all he’ll muster up. She’ll get on the phone with his counselors, only to be met with, “What?!?! Are you joking? Your kid is not only great and happy and popular and conflict-free, he is JOE CAMPER!”

Then she’ll go through a box of letters that she wrote to her own parents as a teenager at overnight camp. She had the time of her life, yet her letters home sounded like this:

Dear Mom and Dad,

I hate it here. Please can I go home? I am never coming back here. And don’t tell my counselors, please. I am going to die if I stay here. I love you but I want to go home. No one can feel how I feel now.

Love,

Me

Is this a rite of passage for kids – to torture their parents with made-up tales of woe? (I’m not referring to the kids who truly are unhappy, that’s fodder for another post.) Last night, for example, was “Family Night” at my son’s day camp. He excitedly showed me around, introduced me to his counselors, said hi to his cabin mates. Then, in the middle of performing the camp dance, he caught me looking at him with pride and he immediately turned his giant smile into a pout. It was as if I had caught him doing something terrible (having fun), and so he needed to change his game stat. It makes me crazy!

All this reminds me of a hilarious book I picked up last summer called P.S. I Hate It Here: Kids’ Letters From Camp. There’s an entire chapter called “Get Me Outta Here!!! that includes letters like the one above from kids who claim to be miserable. They are to-die-for funny! If you’re experiencing what I have been this summer when it comes to camp, grab yourself a copy of this book. It’ll make you feel better about your own miserable life (just kidding). But it’ll certainly make you laugh next time your own kids tell you how much camp sucks.

(Photo: amazon.com)