6 Reasons I’m Hating Overnight Camp

Two weeks ago, I put my son Riley on a bus to overnight camp for two months. If we’re going to be completely honest, the decision to send him wasn’t 100% voluntary on the part of parents or child. Though Riley initially wanted to go, as we got closer to departure, said he’d changed his mind, and I secretly started to doubt whether sending him was the right choice. And, though it may be proving amazing for him, turns out I’m the one hating overnight camp. Here’s why:

1. The lack of photos. My son eludes the camp photographer with the same passion he reserves for avoiding showers. I scour almost 1500 photographs every day, and am lucky if I am able to spot his face in the background of a crowd shot in one of those pictures.

2. What the lack of photos has done to me. I analyze the precious few photos of him like Zapruder film frames. Most people would look at the photos and see my son is wearing a clean uniform every day. Instead, I see the possibility that he’s not eating and therefore has no food stains on his shirt, so maybe he hasn’t changed his clothes in days.

3. The camp letters I receive. The kid can solve complex algebra problems, but had absolutely no idea how to send a letter. I’ve had to mail him diagrams of what a properly addressed envelope looks like, since every member of our family received letters missing return addresses, and the addressee and stamp were both on the back side of the envelope.

So far, I’ve received three letters: one asking me to send his tennis racket, a second telling me it had been raining, and asking if I’d gotten his letters (both of which were just signed “Riley”, no love for mom) and the third, in which he complained about a kid in his bunk being mean, was signed “Sincerely, Riley Kravitz”.

4. The letters I send. It is no easy feat to constantly write letters to your camper in which you have to avoid giving them updates of life at home, lest they get homesick. Instead, you are left to compose letters that consist entirely of questions about life at camp, fueled by what you’ve seen going on in photos seen on the camp website. “I saw that there were camp Olympics this weekend- it looked like fun! What team were you on? What events did you compete in? Did you win any events? Have you been canoeing? What are your counselors’ names? Who do you sleep next to? Please get in more pictures so I can see what you’re doing, and then I won’t have to ask so many questions!”  You do this, knowing that the recipient will never answer these questions, and may never even read the letter, instead throwing it away once he opens it and sees you haven’t stashed any baseball cards inside.

Hmmmm…. Daily letters barraging the recipient with desperate questions about their exciting life you’ve only seen from afar in photos, questions that will go unanswered…. Now that I think about it, writing to your kid at camp is a lot like being a crazed celebrity stalker.

5. Visiting Day: Oh Visiting Day, how I dread you. I miss my kid, and I want to see him desperately. But why, three weeks into camp, just as the kids are adjusting to being away from their families and are no longer homesick, do you have parents come visit for an afternoon and then drive off again into the sunset? This is the most twisted shit ever. All the progress they’ve made in the past few weeks gets flushed down the drain along with the remains of the Dylan’s Candy Bar baskets brought as bunk gifts. I have visions of a counselor trying to pry Riley from the windshield of our car while we drive out of the camp parking lot. If you know of any kids infected with chicken pox, please send them my way; I’m looking for a contagious but not life-threatening excuse to not have to put myself and Riley through this torture.

6. The hole left by his absence is bigger than I ever imagined. There were so many times this spring when he was getting on my last nerve, I thought “Only one more month and I get a break from these battles!” I was totally unprepared for how quiet the house is without him (and without he and his sister fighting). Every time I pass his room and see his clean floor and perfectly made bed, I am hit by how much I miss him, and all of his messy, noisy, lovable tween self.

But, this really was the best decision for my child, and I know it. I see it in the pictures–  he’s happy, confidently playing sports he’s never played, arms around friends he’s just met, yelling camp cheers covered in face paint. My son faced something he so feared — seven weeks away from home — straight in the eye and not only overcame it, but loved it.

You know what, maybe I don’t hate overnight camp after all.

Related post: The Best Letter From Overnight Camp, Ever

About the writer

Brooke is a wife, mom and attorney. Her hobbies include over-caffeinating herself, cursing and decorating her pretend beach house on Pinterest. When she can remember, she tweets at @brookekravitz.

From Around the Web


Erica 4 months ago

What camp do you go to? I’ve been searching for one for my 8 year old daughter. She goes to a local one for two weeks but wants to go longer!

Tricia Young 1 year ago

All of these comments make me sad. You made a choice as a parent to send your child for two months and that’s your choice. Others may not choose to do the same, but they don’t need to tell you you’re insane. I went to camp for eight weeks every summer until I was old enough to be a counselor. I was a counselor through college. I just picked my 6 and 8 year old daughters up from camp yesterday. They were only there for three weeks because it’s all I can afford, but I would have them at camp all summer if I could afford it. Way to go, mama, for giving your child the best experience he will have his entire life. There are those that will argue that, but if you’ve been to away camp you know there is nothing better in life. I love my husband, I loved my wedding, my honeymoon, my children, etc etc. I’m not saying it’s better than that, but it’s better than any experience. It makes a person who they are. Anyway, great parenting choice, mama!
I was reading your post and thinking oh my goodness I had all of these thoughts. Your letters to him….mine are exactly the same! I look through pictures and write my daily letter asking questions and commenting on the pictures doing my best to avoid any talk of home so they don’t get homesick!! I asked my older daughter yesterday if she liked getting a letter everyday. She responded, “Who wouldn’t want a letter from their mom every day? Of course I loved it!”

Joan Stearns 1 year ago

I AGREE, Why would you send a kid away for two months? I guess the upper class used to ship the kids away for 9,, but really./

Katie | The Surly Housewife 1 year ago

I honestly didn’t read anything after 2 months 😉 Lucky!!

An insanely jealous homeschool mom

Stacy Turkel Nicolau 1 year ago

Two words: Cash and signs. I pay my kids for each picture they show up in. If they photobomb a picture they get double. The kid with the most pictures gets a bonus. Signs: I was worried about my youngest going to camp this year for the first time. I told her to give me a thumbs up if she was doing fine, a heart shape if she missed me and a blow fish face if she got constipated. It worked! #showmeasign #CH2014

Jodie Brown Reha 1 year ago

#6. is so true!

Lauren Schutte-Oates 1 year ago

I am from Australia so summer camp is very foreign to me, no way would I send my kids away for 8 whole weeks! Our summers are spent with family, beach holidays, trips up the bush for a swim, water fights in the back yard! Summer is the best time of year and I wouldn’t waste it sending my kids away to camp. Each to their own, but not us

Sharon Katz Levy 1 year ago

Sleep away camp is the best thing for kids in my opinion. They learn how to survive without parents at their beck and call and make amazing friendships that last a lifetime. A good camp teaches them so much especially how to interact with others on a social and moral level. Have seen many non – camp kids do crazy things when they go away to college as their first time away from home. Camp is good!

Barbara Mastroddi-Lackey 1 year ago

My daughter goes to Girl Scout day camp for most of the summer, as I have to work, and has an occasional sleepover (she’s 10 1/2) but has made it clear she does NOT want to go to a sleepaway camp anytime soon, although I think she might want to try it for one week (our day camp has a “stay/away” program where the campers go for one week to day camp, then spend another week together at the sister sleepaway camp). I never did, but I did go away for three weeks on a cross-country camping trip with the Girl Scouts (I was 15 1/2), which was great fun.

However, I will admit that two months apart is ludicrous. Some parents seem to want to have their kids away a good part of summer so they can “have time for themselves,” then will complain years later that their children don’t want anything to do with them. Hmm…

Shelly Suderman Loving 1 year ago

I think camp lengths are a bit of a geographical and cultural thing… So much judging!!!! Most kids in Texas go for a week, a few for two, and fewer still for a month. Calm down…. The kids LOVE it and grow and learn so much!!! And they come back so self confident and well-behaved! There were times I would have gladly taken two months!!!

Shelly 1 year ago

TIP: I used to bribe my tween to be in puctures. $1 for every group shot with a full face he showed up in. $5 for a solo portrait. ANOTHER TIP: after 9 years at camp I don’t look at the puctures everyday (maybe twice a week I peek).

Valerie Pajak 1 year ago

What I would hate about camp is that my kid would be doing cool stuff with other people that I’d want to be doing with her myself.

Rebecca Greene 1 year ago

2 months? Huh? 2 weeks maybe? Summer is for chores in the morning followed by the beach (for coastal towns like mine) or someone’s pool in the afternoon….with library visits and movies (home or theatre) scattered around…..2 months…my kids drive me crazy but after 2 days I would feel bereft.

Sue King 1 year ago

Good lesson learned.. Like pre-addressed and stamped envelopes, a practice letter sent to himself a week before he goes..so he knows what you’ll be getting in the mail.. And to even seek out the camp photographer once a day or so.. Also a note to camp counselors..have writing time and help them get them mailed out properly. And remember..all this is new to kids..doesn’t effect them(until they get home)..so is meaningless to them.. Am sure he’s doing all that he enjoys.

Amy Fowler Kreiner 1 year ago

Two months! I’ve lived on the east coast my whole life, 42 years, and never heard of a camp that lasted that long. That’s terrible! Summer is for families to go do stuff…. together! They’re only young once and it goes so fast!

Barbara Lovesapintandadance Jones 1 year ago

Two months is way too long!

Evie Antonis 1 year ago

For an European mom, this is shocking! 7 weeks of camp? What the hell? Why??? I just can’t see a good reason for this. Can anyone please explain?

Michelle Zelenak 1 year ago

TWO MONTHS!?!?!?! That is insane to send your child away for that long! :(

Lisa 1 year ago

We don’t have ‘camps’ in the UK, there are a day version that last at most six hours so I intrigued by the American culture of the camps. Summer holidays are for family time, working parents save their leave to enable long lazy days at the park, beach or even just home even if for a couple of weeks. Get that kid back home and enjoy every second of his development that you can. I know the camps are amazing as my husband spent his university days working at them, but he liked day camps better, best of both worlds for kids and parents. (Because the kids were happier and didn’t cry so much).

Lydia 1 year ago

Summer break is bittersweet for me, in all honesty, and I really love time I get on my own that I get during the school year, but I don’t think I could send my kids away for 2 months or all summer. I dread the thought of the next class camping trip for my 4th grader this year; his class had two one-night overnight camping trips in 3rd grade. Personally, I don’t see the rush to send them off to overnight camp before high school.

Emmi Lawrence 1 year ago

Two months? My husband is a summer camp director and it’s our first year. We’re halfway through and living at camp for the duration, but each session is only 6 days, with a 1 or 2 day break in between. Tbh I feel sorry for those camp counselors–my husband works from 7 am to 11 pm most days, usually later and the counselors put in just as much time. No break for two months would be difficult. But it is awesome to see how much fun the kids are having while they’re here. Some come back for a second session, but usually that’s it.

FionaBlue 1 year ago

I went to a two week camp from age 9 to 16 then was a Jr. Counselor, Counselor, Leadership Team/ Arts and crafts Director, and finally, Asst. Camp Coordinator at age 28. Other former camp kids will know this: that place was my second home, the values I learned and relationships I developed there shaped the adult I am to day in the most positive ways. My heart broke every time it was time to leave. As a child I always wished is was at least 3 weeks long!

kelley 1 year ago

The 4 weeks away at camp were the best thing we’d ever done for my 12 year old daughter!

Linda Neylon 1 year ago

Ok I love getting rid of my kid for a bit,but two months and he’s that young? That seems like a bit much! My14 year old is doing one week …two would be nice , but that’s my limit.

Joanna Castellano Festa 1 year ago

I cherish the time I spend with my kids during the summer. I could never imagine shipping them off for 2 months. I know for some it’s the norm. I could never! You don’t get these years back. Before you know it they’re off on their own.

Laura Freeman Myers 1 year ago

We do 2 “camps” boy scout and the same camp I went to when I was a kid. And he spends the rest of his summer with my parents. We call that Camp Pop&Nanny. It’s hard but he has a blast!

Sarah Fritz-Maldonado 1 year ago

We do random camps that last all summer 2 boy scout camps in different states a dude ranch in another state road trip to each of these camps my oldest is literally gone all summer but then again he’s13 and my dad volunteers at all these places while he’s attending… I do how ever miss him, it’s quiet but the experience for him is amazing. I know day camps that last months but never over night camps.

Nicole Van Hoose 1 year ago

The camp where my son goes is up to three weeks. A lot of the kids that go for that long tend to be “downstate” kids. In NY that means the kids from the NYC metro area and Long Island. The upstate kids (anyone not from NYC area) have back yards and fresh air all year long, so I don’t know that they tend to stay as long. My son goes for a week. Next year, when he is 12, he wants to go for 2.

Caitlin Velasco 1 year ago

2 months?!? That’s insanity!!!

Emily Marciano 1 year ago

I live on the East Coast and know plenty of people, as kids and parent’s, who have gone to or sent kids to camp for years… I have never heard of a 2 month camp… 2 weeks was the longest I’ve heard of or have seen kids go. The only 2 month “summer camps” I’ve seen here are Day camps, and that is basically like day care, they go in the morning and come home in the evening.

Courtney Nicole 1 year ago

Mine comes home from her first camp tomorrow. The searching for pics and posts about letters is so real!

Heather Childress 1 year ago

We went 6 weeks when I was a kid, it’s like summer school outdoors, no I really enjoyed it, I’ve seen anywhere from day camps to the entire summer, kids doing fundraisers to go etc. Honestly if I could have afforded it my girls as teen would have gone 2 months, maybe then summer family outings wouldn’t have sounded so bad!

Cindy Guentert-Baldo 1 year ago

Honestly, if I could afford it and if two months wasn’t the entirety of our summer vacation here, I’d consider it. I work full time and can only afford a brief vacation in the summer… My kids would most likely have a blast at a camp instead of doing the summertime babysitter shuffle!

    Mary 1 year ago

    I didn’t think of it that way. The kids probably enjoy it more than daycare or even being left alone all day if they are older. But I still don’t think I could have them away from me for that long.

Mary 1 year ago

No way could I send a kid away for two months. My fourth grader is going next week to camp for one week for the first time and it’s going to kill me. Her older sister did a week at a time for two years, but she was two years older. Plus this one’s my baby!

Marnie Chan Demeterio 1 year ago

It’s an East Coast thing, and my roommate long ago said its a Jewish thing. She may be right, because all the Jewish kids on our block are away, while us Gentiles make do with the town camp (don’t kill me. It’s just an observation) I did send my middle child away to Cheerleading camp for a week. But that’s the most I could afford. It’s like 7-10K for the whole summer at these camps, I heard.

Kathryn Dunbar 1 year ago

I worked at summer camps for 4 summers. If they aren’t writing you vast amounts of letters of calling hysterically, they’re probably having a blast. And most kids were sad after visitor’s day… for maybe an hour. We had shaving cream fights on visitors day when the parents left. Always exceptions, but most of our girls came back year after year and absolutely loved it. I think it is way tougher on the parents

Jennifer Whittemore Ritter 1 year ago

How could anyone send their kids away for 2 months!? I could see a week at a camp but the entire summer… i would never want to be away from my child for that long.

Nichole Webster 1 year ago

When I was a kid I would have given my right arm for a two month camp! The longest I was able to squeeze was two weeks!

Jenny Kruschke 1 year ago

Summer camps last TWO MONTHS? I thought they were like 2 weeks…two months is like the whole summer. I’m not sending my kids away for the entire summer, that’s for sure.

Marsha Nardi Montgomery 1 year ago

I’m a mom of three who are all 5 years apart in age (currently 9, 15 and 20). Two months at ANY age feels like an eternity. My oldest is enlisted in the Air Force, stationed in WY and I have seen him for a total of about 15 days in the last year. Basic training was 8.5 weeks, in which I talked to him only twice and for a total of 30 minutes ALL TOGETHER. Count yourself lucky that it’s just the summer and then you get yours back :)

Marsha Nardi Montgomery 1 year ago

Refresh refresh refresh :)

Onyx Linda Whittam Durden 1 year ago

Mines going to her first over night camp next week and I’m a basket case

Lura Lee Roach 1 year ago

I just got my kids back from camp for a week not sure I could do 7 weeks

Rachel Babinski 1 year ago

Am I the other mother that looks forward to a week or two kid free? Lol 2 months would be acceptable too lol

Leslie Haywood-Moore 1 year ago

I remember searching for pictures…

Tina Katharina 1 year ago

I have the most fun memories of sleepaway camp! I’d send my daughters in a heartbeat knowing they’ll treasure the memories for a lifetime!

Bobbi Smith 1 year ago

TWO MONTHS??? How old is this kid??? Mine went for a week or two….. They didn’t go away for two months until they left for college!


Enjoying this? Then like us on Facebook