Kid-sickness—Guilty!

Yesterday’s paper had an article on what AP writer Martha Irvine called a new disease, “kid-sickness.”

It used to be the homesick kid begging to come home from camp. Now [camp directors] have 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 style of parenting. Observers also say it’s 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.

I don’t think of myself as a hovering parent. (Is there some sort of quiz I can take to determine this?) Yet, when it comes to “kid-sickness,” I plead guilty. And as Irvine noted, the need for contact played a significant role.

After my daughter begged to go to sleep away camp, I finally convinced my husband that it was a good idea. I had gone as kid for several summers and loved it. She had been away for 10 days before on a trip with her grandparents, so I figured I could handle a 2-week camp. Wrong! The major difference. No cell phone. No contact. Only snail mail.

I didn’t worry about her being hurt; I knew I’d hear about that right away. But was she happy? Had she made friends? Was she lonely? When her first postcard finally arrived, it was brief, but to the point. She loved camp. And she closed with these four words, “I am perfectly okay.” Clearly, my daughter knows me well.

When we picked her up, she cried to stay. No homesickness, just the joy of being a kid at camp. She even seemed more confident and outgoing as well. So, while 2-weeks seemed like forever to me (and even longer to her brother), we’ve agreed to let her go back next summer for four.

In the article, Irvine quotes Bob Ditter, a therapist has acted as a consultant to camps since the early 1980s.

“Parents love their kids a lot,” Ditter says. But they also need to let go sometimes. He is, for instance, absolutely opposed to the idea of Internet webcams that allow parents to monitor their children at camp.

 

I agree. Part of going away to camp, is going away.  It’s often a child’s first real taste of independence from parents. And that’s a good thing. As my mother-in-law reminds me, one of the major jobs of parenting is teaching your kids to become independent.

 

For Jewish families there may be another benefit. In article in the Baltimore Jewish Times, Doug Mankoff, executive board member of the Foundation for Jewish Camps said, “We know kids who go to Jewish summer camp are more likely to grow up with positive feelings about being Jewish.” And even more importantly, camp produces Jewish leaders.

 

Jerry Silverman, president of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, told the BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES that as of 2006, 65 percent of Jewish leaders attended a Jewish sleep-away camp.

 

I imagine the same is true of camps for other religions. Does anyone have stats for those?

 

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