My idea of camp is where everyone gathers around a fire, roasts marshmellows, koombaya's....you know, that old chestnut.
But apparently in New York City - this is not the case.
As I've recently discovered, summer camp is not just an option - its a MUST. Any parent raising a family in Manhattan opts to send their kids to summer camp 99.9% of the time.
I remember the (one & only time) I went to Olympia Sports Camp it was 2 weeks ... and that seemed like a lifetime for me at 8 years old. (I missed my cottage...I wasn't a camp kid, although I know a lot of people do love it!) Here - the minimum is 8 WEEKS ... most send them for at least 11. Parents start sending their kids as young as 6 years old. I can't even imagine being away for 11 weeks at the tender age of 6. But I guess it's whatever norm you're used to.
The way I see it, its a way for parents to relive their youth (as they know it) before babies took over. Couples get to act like honeymooners again, going out for fancy dinners, bike riding etc. They explain it as though it's "good for the kids" to get out of the city and be with peers their own age. Which I guess is true as I'm sure a lot of non-camp Upper East Siders must spend their summer days being dragged from catered luncheon to catered luncheon.
Parents literally count down the days until their child leaves, packing trunks & labeling clothing.
The other weird thing about the camps these kids go to is that there is very limited communication allowed back home. One phone call & one visiting day is all the correspondance they get. Unless of course there's an emergency, then they can by all means call home. I would have complained of heat stroke or splinters every day if that was the case!
Now speaking of visiting day - I just read a very interesting article in New York mag & heard from someone's first hand experience. (article found HERE ONLINE)
Trail's End is just over the New York border in Pennsylvania & is a popular one among the New York elite. Tuition & fees are close to $10,000 per child for 8 weeks.
Visiting Day for these campers is like the Calgary Stampede...the parents are the cattle. This is their one chance to prove to their kid just how much they "missed" them...although it seems more like a missing war between parents!
At Trail's End - the camp doesn't open until 10:45am....but over 2,000 family members start waiting by 9:30am behind a thin yellow rope. (Or at another camp I've heard about...they have to wait behind a white picket fence which takes the cattle thing to a whole other level)
The camp manager even has to go on the loudspeaker to tell parents to stop pushing & shoving.
At the sound of a horn, the gates released & the running of the bulls begins! Parents race as fast as they can towards the crowd of kids; arms full of presents galore & gourmet picnic baskets.
Some of the campers favourite food requests include: Chinese food, Sushi, Shrimp cocktails, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, homemade pastries, Steak sandwiches etc.
Parents also bring PRESENTS PRESENTS & MORE PRESENTS. No better way to show your kid how much you care than the gift of materialism now is there?
Dylan's Candy Bar baskets, Tiffany bracelets (right, now that's a camp necessity!), Nail polish, brand new Under Armour sneakers, Louis Vuitton wristlets & Coach flip flops.
At 4pm parents are given the boot & the kids are given a "party" immediately following so they don't dwell on the fact that their parents just left. (I'm sure they're so hopped up on Dylan's candy that they could care less anyway)
The article in the magazine shows pictures of parents & kids balling their eyes out as they say their goodbyes for the day. They just got thousands of dollars worth of stuff - and they're still upset? Maybe money can't buy happiness afterall...