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Hey Summer Camps, Enough With Your ‘Theme Days’ Already!

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children's costumesMy sister called me the other day to vent about her failed attempt at creating a cool costume for her little guy. He’s almost 4, and he goes to a camp where every five minutes there’s a “theme day.” That would be all fine and good if the themes were generic – you know, things like “Rock Star Day” and “Superhero Day.” But, no, we’re talking obscure themes such as “Island Explorer Day.” What the hell does “Island Explorer Day” even mean?

For my sister, she thought it meant throwing a pair of kiddie binoculars on her child and having him hold a magnifying glass. Oh, she also threw on a safari-style hat with leaves attached to it. It was all kind of ghetto, she admits, though she did give herself props for the leaves. No matter. Once the camp bus pulled up, she witnessed dozens of toddlers dressed in store-bought costumes: we’re talking fatigued safari hats, vests, backpacks. There were Dora the Explorers and Diegos abound. She wondered where on earth these parents managed to find full-fledged costumes in the middle of summer – and why they’d even bothered.

Apparently, people take theme days very seriously. They’re meant to be fun for the kids, yes, but “theme days” are stressing out working parents who don’t have the time or energy to come up with costume ideas 17 different times this summer. One friend told me about a recent “Patriots Day” theme at her child’s camp; she dressed her daughter in red, white and blue, then got to camp to find kids decked out in full Statue of Liberty regalia. Like my sister, she wouldn’t have cared had it not upset her own child, who suddenly recognized that her own costume was lame by comparison.

First World Problems, I know. But I’m telling you, theme days are stressing people out! My own 3-year-old had a “Teddy Bear Picnic”-themed day the other week, and I panicked the night before when I realized we don’t own any teddy bears. “You can bring your doggie instead,” I told my son, who proceeded to scream and cry and insist on an actual teddy bear. (Fortunately, our sitter happened to have one.)

My older son, who’s 6, has a different bus theme every other day. This morning he cried because he couldn’t find his sunglasses, and it was “Rock Star Day.” My husband, a professional musician, gave him a backstage pass to wear around his neck, which did nothing to calm our child. On Tuesday it was “Video Game Day,” and I was relieved to know that had I just bought him a Mario Bros. T-shirt over the weekend. (Crisis averted!)

According to my sister, “animal” days are the worst. “I always figure my kid will be a dog where I can dress him in brown and make ears out of construction paper,” she says. “But, no, they always want to be sharks, monkeys, elephants.” Which reminds me: my son had a Disney-themed day last week and he woke me up at 6 a.m. asking if we had a Mickey Mouse costume in the house. (Uh, no.) Three minutes before the bus arrived, I ended up drawing Mickey Mouse figures up and down his arm in blue pen. (Mother of the Year!)

What I still have to look forward to this summer: Pirates of the Caribbean Day, 1950s Day, Cartoon Day, Game Show Day and Dinosaur Bone Hunt Day – to name but a few. Somebody get me a drink!

(Photo:Hal_P/Shutterstock)