By Rainer Wasinger
Nothing says “you made it” as a parent like sending your kids to sleepaway camp. Upper and Upper middle class parents pay lots of money with the sole motive of getting their prized little devils the hell out of the house and keeping them entertained for long periods of time. There’s no better middle finger to fiscal responsibility than sending kids far away from it as possible.
Parent’s motives are simple. Maximize the distance (and time) away from my children while keeping them safe, so I can do stuff for me. However, the impact on kids is far more complex. Camp has always fascinated me as a human ecosystem. From the libidinous camp counselors to the impressionable young campers, no one is truly comfortable. That’s what you get when the “role models” are pimple faced teenagers.
And yet, despite these extremely awkward parameters for social interaction, people still manage to make friends and cite the experience as life changing. For starters, camp is a wonderful barometer of social capability. Everyone at schools knows about all the weird things you’ve done, or remembers how bad your skin was in middle school. At camp, time stops, and who you are at that particular moment is all that can be judged.
It’s like a control in a scientific study. Many of the outside variables, like athletic ability, how weird you were in 7th grade, and local social hierarchy placement are leveled. It’s just you, without the thick layers of social history, and preconceived notions that cloud the social landscape at home. Camp lets you try things on and go outside of your social comfort zone. And that’s what makes camp a fascinating place for people with an interest in behavior - your laboratory.
It’s a place where friendships are forged on chemistry and social merits, as opposed to convenience or history. Camp forces people to connect, and thus, allows for new perspectives and perhaps, new beginnings.
All the glorious things you think you gained from camp will probably not add up to much. Your parents, on the other hand, got the greatest gift of all- temporary freedom.
Frankly, the friends you make at camp are unlikely to be as “forever” as you think they’ll be when you say your goodbyes, and your parents probably just spent a ton of money getting you away only to miss you and want you back. That’s fine, and it’s natural. What you gained is insight on who you are. Camp is like an annual performance review to see if you are a good person or just a formerly good person who is riding the wave from leading the 8th grade football team to an undefeated season.
Honestly, I don’t really understand the posted purpose for parents other than it’s ability to make the kids disappear. However, it’s a wonderful social playground, where you can experiment with different kinds of humor, or play with being friendly to strangers. It’s your parent’s excuse to day drink, but it’s your excuse to let loose, and offers a blank canvas with which you can experiment to improve your relationships at home.