Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Thursday, July 7, 2011

P.S. I Hate it Here

Isn't it ironic that summer means time off and play for kids but the planning can be so stressful for parents? It takes a lot of work to make a summer seem carefree and well spent. Out three daughters are only now beginning to truly understand that when you're an adult, you generally don't get summers off so they need to make the most of their summers while they can. Still, I don't think they quite appreciate how much effort has gone into creating this great summer experiences for them over the years. Having put in so much time and energy, what do you do when your child is unhappy with the plans you've made for their summer break from school? I've heard several different reactions from several different people. Some parents will go back to the drawing board and come up with new exciting opportunities, wanting their children to enjoy and savor each and every summer moment available to them. Others will tell their kids to buck up and make better choices next year. In our experience, Jeff and I fall somewhere in the middle. When one of our children tried zoo camp for a week and hated it, we told her to buck up - it was day camp for 5 days and we wanted her to make the most of it. When one of our daughters tried sleepaway camp for a month a few years back and quickly discovered it was not for her, we went to retrieve her and re-program her summer immediately. We're all for toughening up but not so much in favor of scarring! There is no one-size-fits-all summer program and we are so fortunate as parents to have so many possibilities to consider for our kids.  This doesn't mean we'll always get it right; hopefully we'll know when we've gotten it wrong enough to make a change!

When kids are away at sleepaway camp, particularly when they are on the younger side, it can sometimes be challenging to determine if they're actually having fun or not (not so in the case of our daughter who made it abundantly clear that she needed to come home early; we were grateful for the clarity and proud of her for having a clear enough sense of herself to let us know what she needed). Beware the photos that many camps now post online each day to show you how much fun the kids are having - the resulting photo psychosis whereby you spend hours each day examining every detail of every expression on your child's face and body language is tough to shed. For me, it's a chronic perennial condition. My kids have spent the last 6 summers at sleepaway camp and I still search for signs of life, happiness and integration within the social fabric way too much! And beware of reading too much into letters that come home. Consider these rules of thumb: If they're not writing frequently, it's because they're busy having fun; If they look tired in some of the photos, it's because they're busy having fun; If they write home about a kid in the bunk that is annoying them, remember that this is precisely the sort of behavior that will lend itself to the development of strong problem-solving skills; If the experience isn't working for them and they need to come home early, the camp will let you know! If you need a little extra boost to get you through, pick up P.S. I Hate It Here,. Inspired by her own daughter's "melodramatic rants" from camp, Diane Falanga collected more than 150 real letters from kids age 8-16 that cover all the imaginable scenarios, from acing the cabin lice inspection, to rowing in the “ricotta” race, to breaking the bad news about a retainer lost in the wilderness. Per the publisher, these letters reveal that kids are wittier and more sophisticated than we might assume, and that the experience of being away from home for the first time creates hilarious and lasting memories.

1 comment:

  1. Robin - Thanks for the nice posting on my book, P.S. I Hate It Here Kids' Letters From Camp. I'm currently working on volume 2 and looking for camp letters. If any of your readers would like to submit their kids' camp letters for possible inclusion, I'd love to see them. They can reach me at or

    Thank you.