Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Welcome Readers!

Now, for the inaugural post!!!

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Eve Pidgeon watched the large group of kids, many of them laughing and chatting excitedly as they boarded a bus for summer sleepaway camp last summer."They just couldn't wait," says Pidgeon, whose 8-year-old daughter, Zoe, (Zoe Pidgeon? Thanks, mom) was among the young campers.

Then Pidgeon looked around and noticed something else: "There were no children crying -- just parents." (aaaawwww.)

These days, camp leaders and family counselors say it's an increasingly common dynamic. It used to be the homesick kid begging to come home from camp. While that still happens, they've noticed that it's often parents who have more trouble letting go.

They call it "kid-sickness," a condition attributed in large part to today's more involved (obsessive) style of parenting. Observers (who?) also say it's only being exacerbated by our ability to be in constant contact by cell phone and computer, as well as many parents' perception that the world is a more dangerous place. (ya' think? Wow, they ARE observers)

For leaders at many camps, it's meant that dealing with parents has become a huge part of their jobs. "The time and energy camp directors put into preparing parents for camp is now equal to the time they prepare children for camp," says Peg Smith, head of the American Camp Association, which works with about 2,600 camps nationwide. ("Parents? Show of hands, please. How many of you don't know what happens at camp?....okay...one...two...four...ten...hm. ALL of you? Jesus. Okay - same thing, just raise your hands -how many of you are maniacally fixated and painfully aware of every. single. fucking. thing your kids shouldn't eat?.....one..two....hm? All of you didn't have to raise both hands. I get it.)

Pidgeon readily (proudly) admits she's one of those parents.Last summer, the single, working mother of two wiped away her own tears, as Zoe left for 10 days at Camp Maas, about 40 miles northwest of their home in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan. This year, Zoe asked to go for three weeks and her mother said, "yes," reluctantly."

It was nothing for our mothers to send us away for two months. (really? Ask your mom that one. I have a feeling she has a different take) We were their jobs 24 hours a day, so perhaps they needed a respite (perhaps?)," Pidgeon says. "They perhaps didn't ache for their kids on a daily basis, as working parents do." (Might I nominate this quote as the "Most Superior Comment of 2008"? Wow, so, now stay-at-home mothers don't 'ache' for their kids like a working mother? How about this: mothers in the past were stronger than you. Try that one.)

Before Zoe went to camp last summer, her mom loaded her daughter's backpack with stationery and stamps, since the only way she was allowed to contact her family was through handwritten letters. (What year is it? Have I travelled all the way back to the dark ages of 1992?!? oh, the horror! ) Both her parents and her younger brother Ben wrote to her often.But as they watched their mailboxes each day, nothing came. (ten days......ten. fucking. days. people. Get ahold of yourselves.)

Pidgeon later discovered that, when mailing her letters home, Zoe had decided to use stickers with bees on them that came with a letter-writing kit she'd received. (kit contents: stamps, stickers, paper, pencil.....$49.99) She thought they were the same as the "normal stamps" her mom had given her. (Your kid is a brainless useless imbecile, Mrs. Pidgeon. Trade her in.)

Pidgeon laughed until she cried when she figured out what had happened. (What the fuck kind of maudlin melodrama is this? Are there cameras rolling?) But even when she eventually got the letters Zoe had sent, something about them struck her."

Her letters, when they came, weren't about missing us -- it was all about her amazing adventures," Pidgeon says. (again.....it's about you, ma. Thanks for giving a shit)

Zoe had been horseback riding and rock climbing, had taken part in a lip-syncing competition -- and tried all kinds of things she never thought she could do. (She didn't think she could ever lip-sync? Wow. Dare to dream, Zoe.)

"They do keep you really busy," says Zoe, who's now 9 years old. "You really don't have time to miss your parents." (Zoe Pidgeon, quote circa 2028)

Bob Ditter (B. Ditty??), a therapist who works with children, adolescents and families in Boston, Massachusetts, has acted as a consultant to camps since the early 1980s and says he hears stories like those all the time.

He says there's something to be said for a parent who cares, but not to the point of becoming a "helicopter parent," a term used for parents who constantly hover over their children, stepping in to monitor their choices and solve their problems, even into adult life. (I can think of another term........'smothering, overbearing bitch' steps to mind..)

At Camp Arowhan in northern Ontario, Canada, they call it a "parent-ectomy." (cute) As is standard policy at many camps, director Joanne Kates doesn't allow her campers to phone, fax or e-mail their parents. They can, however, use a private service that contracts with the camp to exchange handwritten messages, which are scanned and sent throughout the week. (You have to meet the rider in the dark, out in the pasture, head wrapped in a scarf, hand him a flask of moonshine, acknowledge each other silently and watch him go off into the night...)

But she's clear with parents that they have to allow the camp staff to deal with most issues, including homesickness and conflicts between campers. (If 'Meatballs' has taught us nothing else.....)

"Sending your child away to summer camp requires a terrifying (???!?!?) leap of faith," says Kates, who estimates that she easily deals with "10 times" as many phone calls from worried and sometimes meddling parents as she did a decade ago. She saw a particular shift after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (because, you know, summer camps are big terrorist targets. Any more self-aggrandizing bullshit fears, folks?)

Child psychologist Dan Kindlon has noticed the heightened anxiety when touring the country to speak to parents. He says the large majority raise their hands when asked if they think the world is a more dangerous place than it was 20 years ago. (That's not a leading question, either, in case you were wondering...)

He questions whether that's really true (then, why ask it, Doc?), and wonders if we are unnecessarily creating a generation of overanxious children. Sleepaway camp might not be for every kid. Child experts say success at camp has a lot to do with a kid's own desire to try it, or at least an interest in some of the activities. (Experts, indeed) They agree that you shouldn't force a kid to go to camp. But they say it's equally important for parents to remain open to it.

Pidgeon has thought about that as she's ironed name tags onto her daughter's clothing. (....Seymour, do you want me to tell you when it's 7:30?) Zoe leaves for camp later this month, this time with a better understanding about how the U.S. Postal Service works. (....I have a creepy feeling she's going to end up working there)

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