Why Summer Camps Should Have Mandatory Uniforms

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On this site a few weeks ago, Mollie Hemingway wrote an interesting piece about school uniforms and how it would affect her daughter’s unique sense of fashion. I want to tell Mollie not to worry, that school uniforms will change her life for the better. (By this, I mean both mother and daughter’s lives will be easier.)

My daughter started wearing a uniform in junior kindergarten and I am 100 percent certain that wearing a uniform to school is the best way to go. In fact, this summer, I have come to believe that day camps should have mandatory uniforms as well. Yes, I said it: Day camps should have mandatory camp T-shirts for the children to wear every day.

When it comes to the school year, my boyfriend is amazed that my daughter can get dressed and ready in 30 minutes or less (including eating and brushing hair and teeth). His two children who go to public school (no uniforms) take at least twice that long just picking out their outfits each day. At my house, it’s choosing between blue knee-highs or blue leggings, which is why we can get ready so quickly. I love it.

I realized last summer, for the first time, that how children dress is important – and not in a good way. One morning I lay out an Elmo T-shirt that my daughter loved on her bed for her to wear. “Mommy,” she said. “I don’t know how to say this, but I can’t wear that.” I asked her why. “Because I heard some of the other girls making fun on Elmo and so if they see me in it they’ll make fun of me.” Apparently, Elmo had suddenly become uncool.

Let’s be honest: We can say to our children, “Well, if they don’t like you for what you wear, then they’re not worth being your friends,” but, at age 7, can they really comprehend that? For me, it’s more important that my daughter doesn’t get made fun of (thus ruining her camp experience) than proving a point by forcing her to wear a T-shirt. She put something else on. I didn’t care.

This summer is when I really started to think that mandatory camp T-shirts would not only help my daughter fit in – she’s used to wearing the exact same thing as her classmates and no one makes fun of each other – but it would certainly help me in the mornings. No longer can I get her dressed and ready to go in less than 30 minutes. I blame this on a lack of uniform.

See, the camp my daughter attends has never-ending dress-up days. Yes, this is fun for the kids, I think. But I’m not sure they really care. I do know it’s not fun for mommy. The first dress up day was “Green Day,” which I took to mean had something to do with the environment and it was easy enough to find her a pair of khaki shorts and a green T-shirt.

The next day was pajama day, which should have been easy enough. But my daughter worried about what kind of pajamas the other kids would wear and so she made me pack her three different kinds of pajamas just in case. Of course I did. (And don’t tell me you didn’t worry as a child/teenager about fitting in when it came to clothes. You did. I did.)

And it’s just going downhill from there. There was 1950s day last week and I woke up to my daughter telling me this and in my tired head thought, “Um, excuse me. Let me just look through our closets for that POODLE SKIRT that I’ve been saving JUST FOR THIS OCCASSON!” NOT! I scrambled through her closet, and 15 minutes later I found a poufy skirt that I thought would pass. I missed the school days of uniforms. We almost missed the bus.

Then there was “underwater day.” I actually called the camp to say, “What the heck does underwater day mean?” A staff counselor told me, “Well, I see some counselors walking around with flippers and goggles.” Great. Wonderful. I found a Moby Dick T-shirt and a pair of goggles that my daughter used as a hair band. She looked completely weird and when I sent her father a photo of her, he said, “She’s going to get picked on.” I wasn’t sure this was the case, but I can tell you that no one gets made fun of in a school uniform – at least not about their clothes.

And, then, today, it was 1960s day and again, it took me a good 15 minutes to find a pair of shorts with a peace sign and a flowing flowery shirt. I find myself rushing in the mornings to get my daughter dressed and all I can think is, “I cannot wait until she’s back in a uniform.”

Then there is the fact she’s on the “Yellow Team,” whatever that means, at camp. Every Tuesday she has to dress in yellow. We don’t own any yellow, which means I actually have to go out and buy some yellow shorts and shirts and quite frankly, I don’t want to, because even though she goes to a uniform school, she has a ton of clothes. Why should I waste money buying her clothes she doesn’t need all because she’s on a yellow team?

My daughter also has started to complain about her bathing suits. She refuses to wear the polka dot one at camp because she thinks it makes her look like a baby. Let me just say that during the school year, she never complains about what she wears.

And, did I mention, that there is ‘pirate day’ coming up? Obviously, I see how these dress-up days can be fun for kids. The problem is only half of the kids actually dress up, which leads to the other half who do dress up feeling a little like freaks. No one feels like a freak when everyone dresses the same.

This is why mandatory camp T-shirts would be beneficial. No poodle skirts, no digging through her closet for pirate clothes, or clothes that have fish on them and no worries that she’s not going to wear the right kind of pajamas. And, oh, I miss the days of getting ready in less than 30 minutes!

As for worrying about losing personal style with school uniforms, let’s just say there are ways to get around it. My daughter, for example, wears a half a dozen bracelets on her arm. She wears painted nails in five different colors. She wears funky hats and motorcycle jackets and motorcycle boots or moccasins to school. I braid her hair in Nicole Richie style. But once at school, everyone is the same and never once has she worried about not fitting in or spoke about worries that people may make fun of her about what she wears. At school, it’s about learning. As it should be.

And, quite frankly, mornings are a heck of a lot easier for mommy knowing that she has to wear the same damn thing every day. What do you think? Is it the worst idea for camps have mandatory uniforms?

(Photo: Jupiterimages)