Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parents Debate Sending Kids to Camp

DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife grew up attending summer camp every year with her siblings. It was one of those sleep-away camps up in Maine, where kids go for the entire summer. She explained that at first she didn't want to go because she didn’t want to be away from her parents for such a long time, but then she learned to love it. I, on the other hand, did not go to any form of camp, so the concept is foreign to me.

Last week we had a discussion about whether to send our kids to camp for two months in the summer. I am opposed to the idea, but my wife is sure that it will be amazing for our children. What should we do? -- Sleep-Away Camp, Philadelphia

DEAR SLEEP-AWAY CAMP: I am more like you than your wife. I went to sleep-away camp for a few days when I was a kid -- and I hated it. I even convinced my mother to let me come home early. But I know now that I simply had a bad experience.

Even though I hated camp, I allowed my daughter to go because she was adamant about it. She has been going to sleep-away camp in New Hampshire since she was 8 years old. She is 14 now, and she goes for a month. Many of her friends go for two months. I have to draw the line with that much time. Two months, for me and my family, is too long. It's not because we don’t value sleep-away camp, it is because we want to spend time with our daughter. In the summer, we think it is important to share quality time together.

Once the children go to college, if parents are doing the right thing, they become independent and are not in our presence as much. I want to enjoy as much time together as we can, while simultaneously granting appropriate amounts of freedom.