Oh Thank You, I Could Never Have Figured This Out on My Own

Hi Readers — I just found this website: How to Write Letters to Camp. Apparently all you have to do is master five simple steps! The website features three different greetings you might consider to address your child: “Dear Michael.” “Hi Mikey!” “Hey Kiddo!”

Phew! I had no idea how to start a letter to my own kid! Now I do!

Here’s a sample letter the site gives:  “Yesterday the weather was sunny in the 80s.  Dad and I woke up at 7 and walked the dog.  Dad went off to work and got home at about 7.  Your grandparents came over (they look great and say hello by the way) and we all went to that new Italian restaurant on Main Street.  We enjoyed the shrimp scampi…”

We need this kind of instruction because otherwise…what?  We might accidentally write an INTERESTING letter?  Or is the problem that parents can’t possibly think of anything to say to their kids? We need someone TELLING us what is APPROPRIATE to say in a letter, and reminding us that we better do it RIGHT? God forbid, we write a less than supportive, chatty, funny DAILY note, and our kid never recovers from the shock and disappointment of a sub-par letter?

I know that this is an upbeat site just trying to spread a little cheer and I really don’t want to dump on it. The guy running it sounds delightful. But the fact that there are pages and pages of instructions on what to INCLUDE in a letter — jokes! questions! encouragement! — and how to FRAME a family anecdote and how to LET our kids KNOW WE CARE is one of the things that drives me crazy about our society today: The idea we need EXPERT ADVICE on simply being parents. The idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to “relate” to our kids. The idea that even the simplest of daily activities is now a major challenge that we shouldn’t attempt before consulting a reference site, and that once we’ve studied up, we must  work on perfecting the activity, lest we fall short and “cheat” our kids out of a teachable, incalculably valuable moment. (And don’t get me started on the fact that the blog also suggests we can add an “SAT word of the day.” No — do NOT get me started.)

Somehow, we have taken every aspect of parenting and pulled it apart into tiny sub-parenting particles to examine and refine and fret about. When, really folks: It’s a letter to camp. You get out a sheet of paper, you say hi, and you drop it in the mail. (You remember mail, right?) You can do it without an advanced degree. You can do it without inserting the best possible joke or story. You can even do it without this — an actual “fill in the blank” template for parents to write to kids, including my favorite line: “Whatever you did, we’re very, very proud of you for trying!”

Very VERY proud. Whatever gosh darn thing you did, we are bursting with parental pride.

But you know what, parents? I believe in YOU, too. Can you write a letter to your child at camp? Hey, Parent-o, yes you can! And I’m so very, very proud of you!  — L.

And they're off to camp! But do you know how to write them a letter?

164 Responses to Oh Thank You, I Could Never Have Figured This Out on My Own

  1. Alia June 15, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Great post – I’ll paraphrase Bill Cosby: Intellectuals are those of us know take lessons to learn what other people do naturally. Tasting wine. Bearing children. Writing letters to those children….

  2. Myriam June 15, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    What if the children compare the letters and notice that they’re all the same? That could frighten the living daylights out of them. They might conclude that while they’ve been away their parents have been abducted and replaced by robots!

  3. Susanne June 15, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    I think you’ll be interested in this piece by Lori Gottleib: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1969/12/how-to-land-your-kid-in-therapy/8555/

    Be sure to watch the interview with Wendy Mogel.

    I really enjoy this blog.

  4. EricS June 15, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    Nice quote Alia. From the pattern that I’ve been seeing over the years, it seems it all has to do with the parents own insecurities. Or adults with insecurities. All of these “micro-parenting” techniques just sound like a bunch of insecure people who feel they need to be seen as “intelligent” by coming up with these dumb-ass advices. But they are smart, because they know there are plenty of heli-parents out there, that would eat up all these types of advices. “Can never be too careful” attitude. Or “my child is to precious to do anything on their own, so I’ll do it for them”. My tip to them, by trying to make yourselves look more and more smart, you look more and more stupid. lol

  5. Donna June 15, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    Wow. I can’t think of anything to say other than WOW.

  6. Becky June 15, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    My kids have been going away to camp for the last three years and I have yet to write an actual letter to them. The first year they went I sent them e-mails, but they didn’t mention those as the high point of the week, so I stopped doing it. This week they’ll be gone for two weeks consecutively and I probably won’t send a thing. They know we love them and are proud of them and don’t need a letter by their plate to get it.

  7. Heila June 15, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    But on the upside, your kid is freeranging: he is at camp!

  8. Idea 2 Go June 15, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    You know the answer Lenore … this is a site for adults who were themselves raised by helicopter parents and never learned how to do anything for themselves. They NEED a site like this to tell them how to write a note to thier kids.

  9. Susan June 15, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    I can’t tell you how many parents of school age kids in my town won’t send their kids to camp because “I couldn’t be away from them that long…” It drives me crazy – I am talking about 8,9,10 year olds.

  10. Jenny Islander June 15, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    I remember as a teenager reading articles about the disturbing educational practices of Japan, such as minutely regimented school days, teaching to the test instead of teaching comprehension or critical thought, and so forth. They were bearing fruit, said these reporters, in people who could no longer do a simple Japanese flower arrangement without a diagram and people who got to college and simply stopped caring, because nobody was pushing them anymore. And the incidence of bullying in the lower grades was horrific.

    Two decades later, we’re copying Japan.

  11. Martin June 15, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Some parents need this believe it or not.

  12. BMS June 15, 2011 at 2:16 am #

    I had a conversation with another mom recently who said, “I think camp would be great for my daughter but she was ambivalent and I never want to push her into anything.”

    If I gave up every time my kids were ambivalent, we would do nothing. Ever.

  13. Brain Burps June 15, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    This is hilarious. I still think my dad was the best camp letter-writer. Written backwards in a circle so you had to hold it up to the light and read the opposite way. Were cool and fun, still have ’em. Thank god there were no “How-to” pages like this on the internet in my day….although dad probably would have ignored them and did his own thing anyways!

    An infectious collection of riddles and rhymes with colours, shapes and counting one to ten in five languages, plus accompanying music CD, colouring pages and a seek-and-find character, Bb!

  14. LRH June 15, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    Just what we need: a “boiler plate/template” to take all the personality out of a letter between child & parent.

    Dear _______(please put your child’s name here)

    This is mom/dad (please circle the one which applies). We miss you so much, _____ (please fill in the child’s name here). Dad & I really look forward to your return home & hearing about all the wonderful things you’ve been doing at _____ (please fill in the name of your child’s camp here). I hope you are really enjoing yourself sweetie/darling/pumpkin/my sweet angel (please circle the one which applies).


  15. Binxcat1 June 15, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    oh man… it just keeps getting more bizarre by the day…

  16. Wendy Constantinoff June 15, 2011 at 2:41 am #

    Sadly here in UK we do have parents who would not know how to write a letter. However they wouldn’t be sending their children off to camp either mainly because we don’t have camps like you have in US

  17. Tuppence June 15, 2011 at 2:43 am #

    C’mon, that’s a satellite link from The Onion, right? I LOLed!

  18. Heather June 15, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    I think this is more a sign of the decline of our intellectual capacity as a society, not necessarily helicopter parents. Scary to think these folks are raising kids, but as someone else said, at least they’re sending them to camp.

  19. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 2:55 am #

    That sad thing is many parents don’t know how to talk to their kids. I have seen it firsthand so this might actually be beneficial to them.

  20. Cindy June 15, 2011 at 2:55 am #

    Dear Son:

    I hope you are having fun at camp. I miss you terribly and have been drinking myself into a coma every night until you come back home. Your dad is catatonic when he’s not looking at porn on the internet, and the cat has run away. We keep forgetting to feed and walk the dog, who is mopey and pooping in the house a lot these days. We’ve decided to hold off on laundry and living until you return. Grandpa’s heart is bad, but will stop breaking when he knows you are home safely. BTW, we sent a babysitter to keep an eye on you. We’d go ourselves but we’re too whacked out on prescription drugs to drive ourselves there. The web cam we stuck in your luggage should do fine, if you would ever unpack. We know you’re not brushing your teeth because the tiny microphone we installed in your toothbrush hasn’t submitted anything for three days.

    Have a great time. It’s wine o’clock. Love, Mom

  21. kcs June 15, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    My Dad used to embed secret messages in his letters to me at camp, spy novel style, like l if you read the last letter of each line vertically it would spell out a phrase, or writing something on the inside of the envelope. That was fun! And I don’t think he got the idea from a book either.

  22. Emily June 15, 2011 at 3:01 am #

    Now this does not bother me too much and here’s why. I was a camp counselor. Most parents would do just fine, but here’s why this might not be obvious. Picture a kid who tends to be homesick and a parent who writes a letter like, “Dear Susie, it’s just not the same without you here. Fido won’t eat and Fluffy just meows on your bed. We think about you all the time. It’s no fun without you here. We hope you are having fun though.” There are the parents out there that feel insecure if their kids don’t miss them enough. That can be felt pretty intensely by kids. Sure I agree with the idea that we don’t have to analyze every little thing, but writing a letter that encourages your kids to have fun without you and still lets them know you care is fine by me.

  23. SKL June 15, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    It has always bugged me when someone (usually an advertiser) would say we need to do X to make our kids know we love / care about them. Yeeeeesh!! Even when I was a little kid myself, that used to get under my skin. “Mom, do you love me?” Really? No, kid, I’m just fattening you up so I can cook and eat you someday! Would you like seconds on your taters??

  24. EricS June 15, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    @ Martin: Why would they need this? Unless they don’t know how to read or write, I’m sure they are capable of composing their own letters.

    @ Wendy: Can they hold a conversation? If so, it’s just a matter of writing it instead of speaking it.

    @ Heather: I agree to a point. The reason for “decline in intellectual capacity” is because they stopped thinking for themselves, and just relied on others to give them the answers. Unfortunately, that’s like the blind leading the blind, in a place they have never been to before.

    @ Dolly: I can’t fathom how parents can’t talk to their own children. The only reason I can think of is because they are to scared of them. Of what they might do, or the kids might stop “loving” them. But that’s all a matter of conditioning. They need to learn to put their foot down, grow a backbone, and let their kids know who’s in charge. This site wouldn’t be beneficial. It would just perpetuate the issue of them not being able to talk to their kids. To solve a problem you need to meet it head on, and deal with everything it entails. Not sweep it under the rug and ignore it. Using a template, or someone else’s ideas is ignoring their own problems. Relying on others to give them the answers.

    I never once got a letter from home, when I went to camp growing up. And I didn’t mind at all. Still had a great time. Everything I needed to hear or have, my parents gave to me before I left. All the talking about camp was saved for when I got home, at the dinner table. 😉

  25. jmchizz June 15, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    Both of my children go to sleep away camp – one for 4 weeks, one for 8. – To them, Camp is “Home” They cannot text, call OR use a computer. We can send an email which is printed then delivered to them. They reply in writing which is then scanned and emailed back to us (for the times they NEED white flip flops or a baseball cap or that I miss them and want a quick fix)
    We also can log on and see pictures that are posted daily. Every year the director sends an email imploring parents to stop calling if they do not see their child in a picture each day. We figure that if we don’t see them, they are off having fun! We’d get a call if there was a problem!!
    I write every day, mostly because they have both asked for it! I send cards (quick and easy) postcards (quicker and easier!) newspaper articles, comics etc – anything to stuff into an envelope before my train arrives at Grand Central.
    I have seen the fill in the blank letters for kids to send home.
    I have gotten my share of empty envelopes.
    Don’t tell their Grandmother, but her letters are pre-written, addressed and stamped before they leave!
    And not that I am counting – but it is 11 days and 17 hours until camp starts!!

  26. Myriam June 15, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    As a parent I get a lot of advice, particularly from school that I find a teensy bit insulting, e.g. how to read nursery rhymes to your child! (we were actually expected to take time off work and come into the school for that session, although I have to say I’m noticing less of this stuff now, maybe the message is getting through). I know if you whine about this sort of thing the retort is always: “Oh you middle-class parents, are you so privileged and lacking in imagination that you can’t imagine that there are some parents who actually don’t know these things and need guidance and support – it’s not actually meant for you so shut up and stop whining.”

    Well my take on that is that the “hard to reach” parents that this stuff is intended for take no notice of it (and I don’t blame them actually) and it just annoys everyone else. So the net effect is negative. Overall, I think this avalanche of advice and guidance has one very big negative effect. It suggests that “parenting” is extremely complicated and requires expert guidance. It’s not and it doesn’t. Ultimately, this just makes parents less confident. Not good for them and not good for children either.

  27. Matt L. June 15, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    Sounds like an item I ran across in one of those botuque baby shops, the box had in huge red letters “Easy Enough for Dad or the Babysitter.” Right, because Dads and the care providers we painstakingly select are morons who need more things dumbed down…

  28. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    Eric: Well let’s see in one case I witnessed firsthand the parents were so out of touch with their kids they did not know how to talk to them. The parents were so busy with their jobs and their own social lives and their own wants and needs, they really did not even KNOW their own children well enough to carry on a real conversation! Now ask the nannys or daycare workers or dance teachers about their kids and they could tell you something. Ask the parents, they would not know.

    Another way I have seen firsthand: The parents are way too far in the generational gap. Like grandparents raising grandkids or even great grandkids. Or parents who have kids later in life. Sometimes it is hard for people with huge age gaps to communicate effectively. Have seen that. Doesn’t mean there is not love there or good parenting, just means there are obstacles to overcome with communication.

    Another thing I have seen was what you said about parents being afraid of their kids. They can’t ever say anything negative to their kids because they think their kids will hate them or yell at them and God knows we don’t want that!!!

    The one I was thinking the “how to write a letter to your kids at camp” was aimed at was the top one though. For the parents who not only send their kid away to camp every summer but also send them to a nanny during the school year and to activities and to the sitters so that the poor kid does not even KNOW their parents and the parents do not KNOW the child. Its hard to talk to strangers, right?

  29. Jynet June 15, 2011 at 3:52 am #

    You are supposed to write letters to kids at camp??

    How long are these camps?

    My daughter went for two (separate) weeks every summer from age 7 to 12 and I didn’t write her a single letter. In fact we were specifically told not to. The kids only got homesick if they were reminded of home after all!

    I just shoo’ed her onto the camp bus before work, and picked her up from the bus a week later after work. She loved every minute and never mentioned any other kids getting letters or wishing she had gotten them… and trust me – this is NOT the kid who would suffer in silence, lol, she is a BIG believer in ‘misery loves company’, LOL!

  30. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 3:53 am #

    Myriam: I don’t know about that. Parenting is actually a very hard job. I have met a bunch of parents that did not have the first clue about parenting. They didn’t know the basics or the more complicated things. They just stunk. They actually could use some classes. But of course, they are the types that don’t go either.

  31. LRH June 15, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    Cindy Ha ha ha! I am just laughing hysterically at your letter, it is simply hilarious.

    “The web cam we stuck in your luggage should do fine, if you would ever unpack. We know you’re not brushing your teeth because the tiny microphone we installed in your toothbrush hasn’t submitted anything for three days.”

    Ha ha ha, simply a classic!

  32. BMS June 15, 2011 at 4:18 am #

    I remember when my mom wrote me a letter at camp telling me how much she was enjoying listening to my new U2 album (which I had gotten 2 days before I left).

    It was impossible to rebel against this woman – she liked all the same music!

  33. Robin June 15, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    My kids know not to expect anything from us when they’re at camp. We have the option of sending emails that get printed out, but really, my daughter is only away for a week. By the time I think about maybe writing something it’s almost time to pick her up. My son goes away for 3 weeks at a time. Last summer he called us (they can have cell phones, he doesn’t have one but he used someone elses) and the first thing out of my husbands mouth was “What’s wrong?” He only called us because his friends were calling their parents and he had nothing else to do for a while! We send them away so they can have fun with other kids their ages. It’s not about us, so why should we make it about us by writing to them?

  34. Marie June 15, 2011 at 4:33 am #

    If my kids were at a camp for just a week or two, I can’t imagine writing to them. I’d be too worried that they’d get homesick from it, although maybe I shouldn’t worry about that. They spend that kind of time with grandparents without me, and the rare call goes just fine now because they’re old enough to cope with talking with me and not getting too homesick. Get them used to going out without me and they’re fine, with or without contact.

  35. steph June 15, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    All I can tell you about that is that there are a lot of semi-literate people out there that really do need suggestions about this. They really do have no idea how to communicate in writing. They don’t read to their kids, they don’t write notes to their kids (like I did starting at the point where she could only halfway read them – I drew pictures for words she didn’t know!), and they just barely have a clue about parenting in general. HOWEVER, that is not the same demographic who reads these helpful articles, NOR is it the same demographic that sends their kids to camp (people who have the money to send their kids to camp generally can string a few words together to their kids… On the other hand, maybe they don’t? Maybe it was a sarcastic hint to those who have the money, and send their kids to camp, and are literate, but just don’t bother writing to their kids. That makes me want to fire off an email to mine right now…. thanks for the inspiration.

  36. SKL June 15, 2011 at 4:51 am #

    Hmm, as a mom who works long hours, I am not distant from my kids. When I had a nanny, I worked at home so I could hear everything, in addition to being with them face-to-face for over half of their waking hours. When I sent them to daycare, it took some creativity at first to get them to tell me about their day, but I made the effort. Tots aren’t good with open-ended questions, so I’d go through a list that usually started with “what did you have for lunch today?” And I’d tell them a little about my day too, so we could have some back-and-forth. Now, more often than not, my kids are waiting to tell me the highlight (or lowlight) of their day when I pick them up. We spend the evening together, and not in a room with a TV.

    I’ve seen SAHMs who have poorer communication with their kids than I do. I wish people would stop making it about whether we work. It’s about whether we try.

    That said, I don’t know that I’d write my kids at camp. My younger siblings used to go for a week-long camp and did not need letters during that short time. If the camp were a couple weeks or more, I could see one letter a week, maybe, especially for a younger kid.

  37. EricS June 15, 2011 at 4:51 am #

    @ Dolly: I don’t doubt you’ve seen them. I have. I just don’t understand how. It’s just a matter of taking the time. They are you children, why would you not put themselves before you? That’s why we here always say, do all of that from the beginning. So that your children know all the things they need to know before they are at a certain age where it gets harder for you to teach them. There is no excuse to not be able to talk to your children. Time? You make the time, that’s part of being a parent. Your needs? lol. Everyone knows, once you have children, YOUR needs become secondary until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Because you HAVE TO be the one to get them to that point. If one doesn’t know that, one shouldn’t be having children.

    I understand about the generation gap. But like with anything else, all you need to to do is put the effort and time into it. Like I said, if you can’t or aren’t willing, don’t have kids. I’m close with my parents AND grandparents. They understand me well enough. Wasn’t easy for them (or me for that matter) growing up, but they made the effort, taught me how to be independent, gave me relative freedom by the age of 6. And because of that early development, I wasn’t afraid to talk to my parents or grandparents. Sure there were times when I was apprehensive talking to them about personal stuff, but like with anything else, efforts were made.

    When it comes to parenting, NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, is impossible to accomplish if you put the time, care and effort into it. And even if the children are in their teens, it’s still not unattainable to connect with them. It just takes more work. The question is, are people willing to put work into their children? Hmmmmm.

    Your last paragraph sounds like some parents I know. Who pawn their kids off to others because they don’t want to be the parents they are suppose to be. Either because of work, cutting into their own social life, or just plain lazy. I know parents like these, and their kids are self-centered, insecure, arrogant idiots. Seriously. They use money and popularity to get what they want, including friends. Can you say monkey see, monkey do? Like I said, these “helpful” sites, are just giving parents like these more reason to NOT parent. Parenting ISN’T hard. No more hard than going to work everyday, 9 hours a day. You just have to WANT to do it. I love parenting. The “hard work” pays off, when you see the results of your efforts. A mentally and emotionally healthy kid, with confidence, and assertiveness. Who understands common sense, and uses it. Now I don’t even have to worry, and actually have the time to spend for myself, BECAUSE I put the effort in early in his life.

  38. pentamom June 15, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    “HOWEVER, that is not the same demographic who reads these helpful articles, NOR is it the same demographic that sends their kids to camp ”


    Jynet’s comments put me in mind of the reactions I get from other parents when they ask about my daughter at college, and I tell them, but then go on to say, “Well, she had this and this going on, but I’m not sure how it turned out because I haven’t talked her since last week.” You’d think I’d either grown a rhino horn in the middle of my head, or said that I was planning to join a baby-eating cult, or both, with the looks I get.

    It’s not that we don’t communicate and keep up with each other, but she’s in college. She has her own life, and it doesn’t include constant communication with her parents. When she needs something or just needs to talk, she calls, and we call her fairly regularly, but just not as frequently as some might deem “normal.” And if something were wrong, we’d know about it.

    This idea that either the child or the parent (and I suspect it’s more often the parent) is missing something essential if they’re not talking three times a week, let alone daily, whether it’s college or camp, is just something I don’t relate to. If there’s some crisis going on, if the kid is homesick, or if there’s a separation due to some unfortunate necessity, I can see it. If it’s because the kid is having a blast at camp or college or wherever, and the parents are busy with their own normal activities, I don’t.

    And so, I can’t really imagine a pressing necessity for a letter with a week’s separation. For a fairly young child (under 13) I could see doing it just because receiving a letter would be kind of special, kind of fun. But not because there’s some necessity to hear from me during a six-day separation when the end time is well known.

  39. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 5:01 am #

    SKL: Chip on your shoulder much? I was not talking about anyone who uses a nanny or daycare. I was talking about couple families in particular who NEVER spent ANY time with their kids EVER. I do know some. They took no interest in their children whatsoever and just had them for status symbols. One such mother did not want to attend her daughter’s dance recital because she had a spa trip planned instead. Those are the ones I am talking about.

  40. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 5:08 am #

    SKL: case in point: I have known families that sent the kids to daycare in the daytime all day, then had a nanny for nights and weekends. So constant childcare by someone other than the parent. They were not special agents or something SO important either. Just doctors. They straight up admitted they never wanted to be left on their own with their kids without someone else there to whisk the child away should it cry or bother them.

    That is NOT parenting and those parents DONT know their kids. So of course, if they wanted to write a letter to them while they were at camp, they would need instructions. Not that they would even take the time to do that, but you know, in case they wanted to.

    Not everyone is a good parent. Its not hard to understand. I don’t why people try to argue that??

  41. SKL June 15, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    Dolly, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but yeah, it rubs me the wrong way when people point at the use of nannies and daycares and extracurriculars as evidence of caring less about our kids. It seems these comments are usually made by SAHMs (or former SAHMs) to make themselves feel superior.

  42. SKL June 15, 2011 at 5:18 am #

    Dolly – just read your 5:08 post – I could totally see why a doctor would want an evening/weekend nanny. What if they got called for an emergency outside of daycare hours? It doesn’t mean they don’t spend time with their kids when they are not working. It may just mean they have invested in a reliable back-up plan.

    I admit it’s possible that the parents aren’t in tune with their kids as much as other parents, but the fact that they have paid help to back them up on evenings and weekends is NOT per se evidence of poor parenting.

    And another thought. That kind of setup happens to more closely mirror the traditional family where one or more grandparents or spinster aunts were around to help the parents – with practical issues as well as passing values along. In my own family, we older siblings played a similar role with the younger two. Having additional important people in a child’s life does not equate to sucky parenting.

  43. Terzah June 15, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    God I love your blog!

  44. Neener June 15, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    Brain Burp – I am totally stealing your dad’s write-in-a-circle idea!

    I do not understand the concept of sending your kid a letter with all the details of the running of the household in their absence. I mean, yeah, I guess if you want them to start thinking like that and end up homesick…sure.

    I buy a funny/silly/stupid card for every day and the camp doles them out. Her dad and I don’t write much in them – we joke or enclose a funny picture, tell her we love her. Sometimes we’ll rub the dogs’ dirty paws all over them. Once I covered one in water droplets, let it dry, and said the cat was sobbing uncontrollably because she was gone. Seriously, if she got a card that read, “Whatever you did, we’re very proud of you for trying!” she would think I was off my nut, and tell the cabin counselor that her parents had been replaced by pod people. Now, if I wrote and said, “That thing you did? You know, yesterday? You pretty much sucked at that. Good thing you’ve got brains, kid!” she would just die laughing.

    One of the cards this time was the standard “I’ve enclosed a hug” variety, so I wrote in it that her dad had actually hugged the card himself, that she would likely be able to smell armpit if she sniffed closely. And her dad saw what I wrote, grabbed the card, and rubbed it under his arm. Ugh. And she will LOVE it.

    Teachable moments in the camp missives? Yeah, we don’t do that in our family. :-)

  45. Robin June 15, 2011 at 6:04 am #

    Neener, will you adopt me?

  46. mgarch June 15, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Neener-love how you do the cards! What a hoot and I bet your child and the kids around her love it too. Much better than the gushy kind especially at camp in front of peers….

  47. Jennifer June 15, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    When I went to camp, there was a rule that anyone who got more than a certain number of letters a day had to do a silly stunt to entertain people at mealtime. The idea was to discourage parents (and other family) from hovering and encourage independence. I guess things have changed.

  48. LRH June 15, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    If we are going to go off on this tangent of time for kids if you’re a stay-at-home-mom (NOT “SAHM” by the way) or hire nannies or this & that, well, my 2 cents worth.

    Your needs as a parent are NOT secondary to your child’s needs. Yes there are things you give up, in terms of–if your child is sick, you go to the doctor etc, even if you are tired & don’t feel like messing with it. You make sure your kids are fed even if you don’t feel like making something. Sure.

    But after awhile it gets ridiculous. For example, a while back, when we had a car with a broken air conditioner, in a state with 100’F temperatures, people were somewhat lecturing us “you can’t go around like that, those kids get hot.” Sure–but we adults aren’t hot too? C’mon, we’re all a family, we’re all going through the same thing. It’s not as if we’re willfully letting them burn up, and their burning up–other than their bodies perhaps being a little less tolerant of it–is no more important than that WE’RE burning up. I don’t subscribe to the whole “they’re kids, they don’t have a child” rubbish. It’s rubbish. We’re more than unpaid slaves for our minors, c’mon already.

    I don’t get these parents who, for example, will buy Goodwill clothes for themselves but then pay top dollar for brand-new items for their kids’ clothes. Not us. Whatever we get for ourselves–Goodwill, brand-new, in-between–the kids get likewise. Their clothing needs are no more important than ours. In fact, arguably, they’re less-so–for one, we work (either me, my wife, or both), no one’s going to fire my kids from their job (ha ha) for not wearing suitable clothes. Thank goodness, by the way, the local school doesn’t have school uniforms–a dress code, yes, but not uniforms. Yes we do buy them nice clothes–but we also buy ourselves nice clothes, and they have “rags” for wearing outside–what does it matter if it’s going to get muddy anyway?

    I also don’t get these women–and men too, let’s not forget them–who don’t work-out anymore or fix themselves up because “I don’t have time because of the kids.” Some of them even are proud of–frankly–looking like old hags or bag ladies because “I’m too busy being a parent to worry about that silly stuff.” Oh puh-leaze. How about your husband, who has to look at you naked, who is bound to you & only you for life? Don’t you think he deserves more respect from you that he is still your husband, your lover etc–and that if he is to be faithful to only you, maybe you owe him your best? That is JUST as important–maybe even MORE so–compared to what you give or don’t give your kids.

    To that end, I myself STILL work out. My 2 & 4 year-olds play alone in the fenced-in area while I workout playing basketball aggressively for nearly an hour non-stop. When they were younger, upon returning from work, I’d leave the 8-month old in a stroller outdoors in the shade while I did so. If she started crying for attention during this time & it wasn’t an emergency, I plugged my ears with an MP3 player and played anyway. She got plenty of attention from me later, but she had to see that she wasn’t the center of my world and that I had other things–and that she WOULD get attention from me when all was said & done.

    In like manner, I’m already training them to NEVER interrupt me when I’m on the phone unless it’s something like a metal rod is sticking out of your eyeball, or there’s a pool of blood large enough to camouflage Godzilla from view. Anything else is a form of disrespect and will be met with a flyswatter to the bare legs.

    Parents nowadays give their kids tons of toys for Christmas but each other hardly anything at all. Not us–growing up the ADULTS got the better toys. We still got cool & fun stuff, sure, but we got to see the adults get better stuff and understand that such came with the seniority and responsibility of being an adult, you EARN these things as you grow up & take on more adult roles in life. To give the kids all the good stuff while you, the adults, doing all the grunt work, receives mere leftovers–that’s an insult, and it spoils kids in being a bunch of whiny brats who demand $200 LeBron sneakers.

    4 years ago we left our then 5 month-old girl (now 4) with a friend who watched her for 24 hours while we went off for time to OURSELVES, on our 7th wedding anniversary. We slept in a fancy hotel costing some $200 a night (luckily we got it half-off), it was downtown, riverwalk, glass elevators–it even features valets to park your car. We NEVER stay in such hotels, but did so for this occasion, our 7th wedding anniversary. For 24 hours–no kids, just us. You HAVE to take time for yourself.

    No you don’t want to be self-indulged and give your kids “crumbs of left-overs.” Those who give their kids nothing while they go on 2-week long cruises–that’s not right. Those who eat great food while giving the kids the cheap stuff–not right. Those who ignore their kids & spend no time with them at all–not right.

    But to place boundaries that prevent your children from taking over everything, preserve some romance for you & your spouse, and allow you to keep yourself in shape and still in-touch with your own hobbies and interests–that’s absolutely appropriate.

    My apologies if my “rant” was too long and beside the point. Then again, sending your kids to camp sounds like a good way to do all of this. Truth be told–the adults are sort of ENJOYING it for the privacy it gives each other, time to focus more exclusively on their OWN interests. I say–good, take advantage of it, don’t feel guilty about it at all.


  49. Cheryl W June 15, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    Now, can we get this blogger to do one about teaching their kids how to write thank you notes? My brother and brother-in-law need to read it because as an aunt, I don’t really feel like sending those kids any more Christmas gifts. At this point, I wouldn’t even care if it was an email or even a post on my Face Book page. Just something to acknowledge that they got it and maybe think it is neat?

  50. hcunn June 15, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    How do you open the letter if your kid isn’t named “Michael” or “Mikey”?

  51. Cheryl W June 15, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    Larry, have you seen the Simpson’s when Bart and Lisa go to camp? Homer looses his stomach, can do push ups with Maggie on his back, Homer and Marge have picnics with wine…. when the kids come home Homer’s toned stomach pops back out.

    Had to laugh about the phone – we do the same thing. And at bed time, it is bed time. Don’t come see me unless there is lots of blood or you are puking (and do that in the toilet first!) As my stepfather says “Jump in bed and cover up your head, Cause Santa Clause, he don’t come tonight! Ha-ha!”

  52. Cheryl W June 15, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    Dolly, I have known a couple of kids whose parents didn’t really want them around. In one case it was a biracial child in a place and time when that was still hard, and the mom sent the kid with whomever she could so she could go clubbing. Literally, the kid would go for a week or more without seeing his mom. His grandparents ended up adopting him.

    The other was a boy down the road. I would try to send him home so we could eat dinner and he would say that no one wanted to see him at home. I believe him. There were a few days he was here at 6;00 in the morning until 6:30 at night, and no one called to see where he was (I know no one was awake when he left home. I wasn’t either.) When he was home, he cramped his mother’s style. You see, she was a meth user and was trying not to use in front of him. He is in foster care now.

    Those are two cases of people not wanting kids. Yes, I have known people of means who hire nannies, in situations like you mention. It strikes me as…well, Victorian. Not our standards for today, but at least the kids are cared for. Why did they have kids then? Who knows. Why did the two parents above keep their kids and not have an abortion or have them be available for adoption when they were so not ready to have kids? Not a clue. But I am going to try not to judge too much. Kids are a fun thought at a certain stage of life, but reality can be tougher than the idea, and a lot more work than anticipated.

  53. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson June 15, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    My summer camp required campers to write one letter home each week. I quickly figured out they never checked to see if there was any actual content, so I just started sending home empty envelopes with postage. My parents were so pissed.

    Now my son does the same thing to me! Drives me nuts.

    Karma stinks. But I’m pretty sure, in this case, it’s healthy.

    Also, I think my mother told him to do this to me. 😉

  54. TressaRay June 15, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Dear Larry,

    Thanks for all the excellent parenting advice. I always love your posts about how awesome you are as a dad and husband. Keep it up.

  55. Kacey June 15, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    Susanne– that Atlantic Monthly piece was magnificent. I felt like I should get out the highlighter & then tack up the article by my desk to use as a reference for the next 20 years…. or more. Thanks for the link!

  56. Donna June 15, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    I can’t help but think that parents who need a website on how to write letters to their kids at camp are never going to actually write letters to their kids in camp. The crackheads aren’t sending their kids to camp. The parents who dump their kids on nannies aren’t going to develop a sudden urge for parenting that would involve deciding to write a letter, realize they cant, look up on the internet to see if there is a website, read the website and then write the letter.

  57. Erika Evans June 15, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Ha ha–I’d love to use his expert and no doubt well meant advice to send a letter to my nine year old who is at camp this very week–only I’m too lazy to write to her while she’s at camp.

    Besides my slothfulness–I like to think that she’s way too busy hiking, swimming, talking about Scripture, meeting kids from the far corners of the state, learning silly camp songs, making bracelets, canoeing, and so on to even THINK about me his week.

  58. Metanoia June 15, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Feels the same as reading this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2002862/Why-quilting-uniquely-good-us.html

    What I got out of that article is that we need to be told that participating in a hobby we enjoy is fun… wow.

  59. Melanie June 15, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Hi there! I didn’t know if there was a specific email request so, sorry that this doesn’t necessarily pertain to (just) this post! I am nannying for 4 kids- 1, 3, 7, 9- and had a few questions. I know that first thing I need to do is discuss boundaries with their parents. But- the two middle kids, both girls, tend to be very rough with each other, sprinting around the house, picking each other up (and then dropping each other, USUALLY on accident), and the older of the two is very bossy and controlling with the younger one. I am looking for advice on how to handle this. I have never worked with either age before (I worked in a daycare center with 1 year olds.. I feel like an old pro with her!) and don’t know what kind of language I should expect them to understand. I want to set boundaries verbally, but am not sure how best to say “CALM DOWNNNNNNN!!!” :) Any advice would be welcome! Thanks a million,
    Frazzled :)

  60. Alexis June 15, 2011 at 9:35 am #


    “A Philadelphia charter school abused its powers when it expelled a kindergartner for touching his teacher’s thigh, a Common Pleas Court judge has ruled.

    The unnamed 6-year-old touched the top of his teacher’s thigh after she complained of leg pains, Judge Paul P. Panepinto wrote in his opinion.”

  61. SKL June 15, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    I think we have a serious superstition about nannies here. It’s just another childcare choice. I hired a nanny at 2x the cost of daycare because, believe it or not, I wanted to be closer to my kids, have more control over what they were doing/eating, and have more opportunities to interact with them throughout the day. Sending them to daycare a couple years later was far, far easier on me. So could we stop talking about nannies as if their presence means the parents are not parenting?

  62. Mary June 15, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    Gee, Larry. I really wish that I could be comfortable with the idea that I DESERVE to be selfish with my time and money like that. But I can’t.

    See, kids can’t provide for themselves, which is where parents come in. I agree that parents need romantic time together and the occasional splurge, but if it comes down to replacing my son’s shoes that he’s busting out of or my capris that that got paint spilled in them, my kids will ALWAYS win.

    This isn’t rubbish, it’s a parenting choice. Their wants don’t come before my needs, but their needs will ALWAYS come before mine. They need new shoes. That doesn’t mean they’re going to get a pair that costs $200. And I refuse to spend money to spoil myself, knowing that my kids are going without.

  63. Kim June 15, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    When I went to summer camp–only once, for one week, and I positively LOATHED it–my mom and stepfather sent me a couple of letters, and believe me, they were definitely not written using any templates! In one, my stepfather included a tracing of his foot, with smiley faces drawn on each toe, and a note “written” especially on behalf of the “Toe Bugs”. (He used to tickle me with his toes, and said that the Toe Bugs were the ones doing it…bizarre, but memorable!) I still have the letters and drawing tucked away in my baby book, and the “Toe Bugs” even got a mention during his funeral service last year.

    How many of those generic letters to camp do you think will be saved (intentionally) for the next 15 or 20 years, or spoken of as a fond memory at Mom or Dad’s funeral?

  64. bmj2k June 15, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    I really hate the concept of that website but I look at all the young kids having kids, all the people who have babies and are unprepared to take care of them, and I have to sadly realize that there are parents out there, who probably should have thought twice before becoming parents, who could use this level of education. I can’t believe anyone with an ounce of sense would need that, but I am sure there are those who do…

  65. bmj2k June 15, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    (to finish my thought) but at least they are trying, so that’s something.

  66. fighting for my children June 15, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I “love” how on the camp letter they even have a link to a kid friendly joke site because even parents cant decide what is appropriate for their kids anymore! How ridiculous! And a template for a letter how ridiculous let alone suggestions of what to write. I’m sure we can figure out how to communicate with our kids without all that “help”

  67. sheilagordy June 15, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    So, something to notice here. I noticed in myself – about 5 years ago that I gave alot of choice to my kids…what to eat, where to eat, where to play etc. Then one day, I don’t know why, I realized that my mom and dad NEVER gave me or my siblings those choices. Why not? Simple. They are grown-ups, it was their turn. They made the money and paid the bills. Why shouldn’t they pick?

    Now, it is my turn. I pick. I’m the grown-up. Why can’t other parents do the same? Why don’t they know how to write letters to their kids at camp or whether to write letters? Because they haven’t decided to be the grown-up yet.

    Guess what? You are not going to break your kids. There is huge gap between helecopter parenting and neglect – it’s called practical parenting.

    You can do it – you pick. Be the grown-up, your kids will love you for it.

  68. Donna June 15, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    SKL – There is a HUGE difference in having a nanny care for your child while you work and dumping your children on a nanny full time. Most of us here understand that there is a difference and are referring to the latter group. I know many who prefer a nanny to daycare. If I had worked during the 1st year of my daughter’s life, I would have hired a nanny. I have also known a few who have 24/7 childcare help and it’s evident that the nannies (or grandmothers in several cases) are 100% responsible for the raising of the child while the parents live their own lives and occasionally interact with their children. The parents have a poor relationship with the children and actually freak out at the notion of being left alone with their own children for a period of time (I had a co-worker who complained about her mother taking a vacation because she and her husband had never spent an entire week alone with their then 4 year old child). The previous group can generally write a letter to their kids without the help of a website; the latter group probably won’t write a letter to their kids with or without a website.

  69. taradlion June 15, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I have to agree with SKL, having a nanny is not a reason to assume someone is not a good parent or doesn’t know their own children.

    I have a nanny, I work as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and feeding therapist. I also chaperone field trips, run fundraisers for my kids school, take my kids to services every week, help with homework, read to my kids….and depend on my fantastic nanny when I am working (with other people’s kids)

    I will write letters to my 10 year old during her first time at sleep away camp this summer (love the funny card idea)…camp “handbook” had lots of suggestions about what not to say (to make kids homesick)…I scanned it, and moved on to rules which included “NO WEAPONS OF ANY KIND”…wondering if a Swiss army knife counts….

  70. Brownie June 15, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Neener and Brain Burp – I’m definitely using some of your ideas for camp writing.

    So my daughter goes to camp – I try to get one or two letters to her. This year since she’ll be 14 they may be addressed to My Darling Precious Daughter – because it will embarrass her. I think.

    I was debating whether to send her to junior high camp (which includes 9th graders – as the oldest campers) or senior high camp (which also includes 9th grade and she’d be among the youngest). She chose senior high – and we agreed. I guess I’d rather throw her into a safe camp to start experiencing being with older kids.

    I’m currently taking a parenting class (GAG!) because it was mandatory for the summer program my 6 yr old is in. And since they have a waiting list – they can say if the parent doesn’t want to attend class, they don’t have to have your kid. I’ve done one class so far – tomorrow is the second. Actually the therapist running the class almost apologized to me for making me attend (we’ve known each other professionally for about 10 years) but she agreed to give me CEU’s for the class. It would be surprising to some some of the parenting that is being taught… okay – it is GOOD information. What can be surprising is the fact that it is needed with some parents. sigh

  71. Tom Dullemond June 15, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Oh man, none of my children are called Mike. What am I supposed to do? They’ll start noticing ‘Hey kiddo’ after a while. >_<

  72. Me June 15, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    As a former camper, there were some parents who could REALLY REALLY REALLY benefit from basic letter writing instructions.

  73. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    Cheryl: With you on the thank you note one. Kids need to learn how to write those and honestly so do many of the adults I know.

  74. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    I am with Mary. I splurge on myself for sure. I try to keep myself happy and my husband happy. But in the end, I care more about my kids happiness than mine. Because they didn’t ask to be born. I chose to have them and raise them and its my job to care for them now. I suffer from severe to moderate back pain. There are times I really don’t want to move. But I have to. I have always had to to play with and take care of my kids. That is putting them first.

    They have nicer stuff than we do. That is okay. They deserve nice stuff. I don’t want them to do without. I would rather do without if it comes down to it. Just like I would give them the last piece of food we had left even if that meant I starve. Couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t.

  75. SKL June 15, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Donna and others, I get the feeling people just see the word “nanny” and form all kinds of biases without knowing more. And that it colors the way they see everything else the parent does. I have to admit that there was a time I thought like that too, before I had kids.

    I don’t know what “dumping a kid on a nanny” looks like, or how it’s different from “hiring and properly utilizing a nanny.” Was I “dumping my kids on the nanny” when I went for my preventative doctor visits? Is that really so much different from going for a therapeutic massage? If I did yoga while my nanny was with my kids, does that make me “one of ‘those’ parents”? Unless you intimately know these people you are criticizing, I wonder how you can be so sure that they really shirk their most important parenting duties. (And even then, that could be due to mental illness.)

    I have friends from India who have 1 daughter, now 4yo. This child has 2 doting parents, a live-in grandma, and a doting single aunt who lives there on the weekends. She also attends daycare/preschool at least part-time, to get “socialized.” Yet nobody is alleging that she doesn’t know her parents. (In fact, last I knew, she would only sleep if her mom was sleeping with her.) But suppose I called her aunt or grandma “nanny” – the judgment would be automatic.

  76. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    There is a difference between a full time live in nanny and a nanny that works while you are working and maybe a little extra here and there. Big difference.

    They were not on call doctors either. One was a plastic surgeon who did boob jobs. I doubt she gets many of those in the middle of the night last minute. She also had zero control over her kids. Everyone in the daycare noticed it. Probably because she never spent time with them.

  77. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    I am going to say too that if you seriously are not ever alone with your kids, then it does stand out as weird and that maybe you are not the best parent because you either can’t handle your own kids or you just are not wanting to spend that much time with them. My husband and I parent together. I parent alone when he is at work or gone. He parents alone when I am gone. So we both have handled them alone before. It would be odd if we honestly could not handle doing that like the two families I was referring to who had live in nannies for nights and weekends and a daycare for the daytime. Do you really need all that help? Can you really not be alone with your kids at all?

    My good mom friend has a nanny but she only worked while the mother worked and occasionally a few extra hours here and there. Nothing wrong with that. It is like Angelina Jolie who each kid has their own full time nanny. That is overkill and downright stupid.

  78. SKL June 15, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    I think sometimes we need to remember that “bad parenting” is beating kids upside the head with implements, starving them, prostituting them, locking them in the closet, stuff like that. Those are the kinds of things that are going to make them grow up warped (if they grow up at all). We can pick at each other about details like whether we spend 3, 6, or 12 hours per day personally interacting with our healthy, stimulated, safe, fun-loving children, but we all know that these parenting choices make no significant difference in the long run.

    The whole discussion about writing letters to kids at camp presupposes that kids go to sleep-away camp. I’m not sure what percentage of kids do, but I’d bet it isn’t very high. So what kinds of parents are in that minority that send their kids to camp? Hmm, most likely they have enough education to write a letter, and enough interest in their kids to identify an appropriate camp and care how the kids will feel while there.

    Granted, there are camps targeting troubled or low-income kids. What are the chances that their parens are on the internet looking for sample letters to write to their kids? (PS, my mom once told me that her brothers were invited to go to a free camp, but they could not go because you needed to pack 5 clean pairs of underwear, which was more undies than the brothers owned, clean or otherwise. So even at a free camp for poor kids, there are barriers to entry.)

  79. Lea June 15, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    I went to camp for 5 weeks as a child starting at age 7. I think I received one letter each summer! I loved going away and meeting up with my summer friends that I did ‘t miss home!!!

  80. Steve Robins June 15, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Hi Lenore,

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I could not agree more that we parents spend too much time looking for experts. I’m not a child psychologist or a professional educator.

    Imagine your kids go to summer camp for a good part of the summer. It’s not easy keeping those letters interesting, let alone maintaining your sanity in the process! So you’re talking to a fellow parent over coffee and you ask them how they keep their letters interesting. They might share a tip with you or tell you about their favorite joke site.

    That’s actually what the Letters to Camp Blog is all about. Parents helping other parents – based on their own experience.

    After writing 100’s of similar letters and emails to my kids a few years back, I thought there had to be a better way to do this. So I applied my self-taught parenting skills, did some research, and began writing the Letters to Camp blog to help fellow parents.

    And it seems like it’s helped hundreds of fellow parents. No magic answers. No sage advice. Just parents helping parents – kind of like Free Range Kids. And I hope more parents will share their experiences so we can all benefit.

    — Steve

    P.S. The letter you mentioned is a sample. I wrote it because to my own surprise, a lot of people ask for advice on how to write a basic letter to camp. I would hope that people use some originality when writing their own.

  81. LRH June 15, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    I am with sheilagordy. Total “right-on” to your post.

    I don’t go for the whole “they didn’t ask to be born.” So what? That doesn’t mean anything. Besides, I didn’t ask to be born either, so what?

    Sacrifice up to a point is one thing, sure. There are times I am somewhat sore or whatever but still play with the kids for a bit, but I also regard it as okay to tell them “daddy’s sore right now, we’ll play later when I feel better, right now go play with your toys or whatever while daddy rests.” That’s it. No begging, cajoling etc, that’s it.

    And yes also to the idea that, as the grown-up, it’s now “my turn” to pick where we eat, when & where we go for vacation and why, all of it. The idea that I could whine to my mother and have us eat somewhere else or have her take us where we wanted to go for summer vacation was totally foreign to me, and other kids my age as well. They decided where we went for summer vacation,and found ways to have fun within that context of them doing THEIR thing. And of course, at TIMES, the parents would ask us where we felt like eating and would ablige us. We learned to appreciate it as a departure from the norm, as opposed to being the norm, because as the adults it was just understood that they picked the vacation spots and the places we ate it.

    It’s my turn now, the hell if someone’s going to change the rules on me mid-game!

    Sure, in my case now, things are done to placate the kids–for instance, just yesterday I put in a new garden house outlet, a small plumbing job, so the kids could enjoy a splash pool. I’m not a plumber, I stink at such things, but figured out how to do it for their sake, and was happy that I was able to make it work. The smiles on their faces as they jumped with gleeful joy in the splash pool was all I needed to see, and was glad to have done that for them.

    And no, kids do NOT “deserve” nice stuff. They EARN it by being obedient and doing as they’re told–when they do, I’m all for it, but not just based on that they’re kids Phooey on that. I deserve nice stuff because I’m an adult and it’s my money. Period. They grow up, they get the same prerogative. Until then–in my house, they EARN it by being obedient to the rules and respectful of the adult property etc.

    And summer camp? The point of this point was the letter writing, but beyond that, this: if the adult thinks it would be good for the kid to go but the kid doesn’t want to go, tough–you’re going anyway. Or, if they DO want to go but have acted like a brat all summer, it’s a privilege that’s taken away–they can spend their summer cleaning the yards instead. At the end of the day, the adults are in charge of it all.


  82. SKL June 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Not that this is about Angelina Jolie, but I can’t imagine what is wrong with her having a nanny for each kid. Aside from the fact that the nannies teach the kids about their individual birth countries and languages, the mom obviously needs to travel and work odd hours, and the parents clearly have the money for it. I call that stimulating the economy and providing flexibility for the family. And also none of my business.

    Just because I used to have a secretary doesn’t mean I didn’t type most of my letters. It means I had the ability to choose whether it was best for me or her to type a particular letter. Just because I pay a child care professional doesn’t mean I don’t take ownership of the things I consider most important to do with/for my kids. Even if I had a nanny for each child 24/7, I would still do what I felt was right for each of my kids. (And even if I had no child care help, I would still NOT do certain things other parents might choose to do for their kids.)

  83. LRH June 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    facepalm All those typos, argh!

    The 4th paragraph should read “the adults decided where we went for summer vacation and we kids found ways to have fun within that context of them doing THEIR thing.” My pronoun usage was off (but I don’t recall the proper English description for how I goofed that up).

    I installed a garden HOSE outlet, not a garden HOUSE outlet. (The old one had been removed altogether because it leaked, about 2 weeks ago, so until the new installation yesterday we had no garden hose capabilities at all.)

    And I meant to say “the point of this POST” (the original one, by Lenore) not the point of this POINT.

    I need to proofread better before I click “post.” Grrr.


  84. Waltz June 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    I think it’s fine. Everyone has different levels of experience and ability.

  85. SKL June 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    And I agree that we are not our kids’ servants, nor do we “owe” them anything beyond basic care. I do plenty for my kids, because I enjoy it. (Sometimes I think I could be creating problems by giving them much more than they need.) But it’s my decision, and it certainly is not motivated by obligation or guilt. I’m a simple person, but if I weren’t, I would feel perfectly justified in buying myself something expensive while my kids have practical stuff. Aside from the fact that I worked to pay for it, I’m a lot more likely to appreciate its value and keep using it for a long time. And also, I am older and sometimes I need to spend a few more bucks on products that focus on comfort. My kids don’t “deserve” perks, but I do.

    One of my daughters has what I call “control issues,” which means that even when she makes a relatively modest request, I sometimes need to say no. Why? Because she needs the security of knowing that I’m in charge. By seeing that I will stand strong in my role as parent, she understands that I will also protect her and fight to make sure she has what she needs, until she’s old enough to fight for herself. I can’t overstate the importance of this understanding.

    I’m not sure where this idea of sacrificing for our kids (beyond basic necessities) arose. My mom certainly wasn’t like that. She always got the good stuff; sometimes she’d share, sometimes not, and that was that. We all turned out OK and all show up for Mother’s Day, so . . . .

  86. LRH June 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    I am sorry for over-posting, but besides my tendency to have typos before I click “post” (not an excuse for sloppiness, just saying), I also find that right after I post, a new post has arrived which I also would’ve wanted to comment on had I seen it originally.

    To wit, SKL, exactly. I may or may not agree with Angelina Jolie and Brat Pitt adopting 3011 kids from 90 different countries and having a nanny for each & every one, and I stress that I may not agree with that–but as you say, that is their business. (And I admit, also, that whether or not someone parents with the “my kids’ needs come first” perspective or the John Rosemond style of “put yourself first, then your kids” as I understand it anyway, that also is each family’s business even as we may argue for or against the concepts.)

    And heck, as much as I love my kids and am doing okay with them overall, at times I’d like a break from them, and frankly, if I had a live-in nanny, I’d certainly take advantage and say “I feel like going out alone for awhile, I’ll be back in 1-2 hours or so” and I’d just plain do it. I have a mother-in-law who gives me breaks if I ask, but I don’t ask very often because I don’t want to over-impose, she’s a fair distance away (about 30-40 minutes) and her style of parenting doesn’t match mine that closely–it’s not horrible by any means, but I like things the way I like them, but when someone is watching your kids for you free as a favor, you can’t make the same demands you could of a nanny who is being PAID by you to parent based on YOUR philosophies.


  87. Mom June 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    I read this blog post with some interest as I have two children who will be at overnight camp this summer for an extended period of time (7 weeks). Camp is very much their “home away from home” and they love being there. I remember “mail call” from my own summer camp days … my mom wrote letters as often as she could, but I still remember the sting (no matter how momentary) of the (many) days when no letter arrived. So, I swore I would write to my kids every single day.

    I take the time to let them know what is going on at home, talk about work, newsy things, sports scores, the weather, the dog. After a while, it can get repetitive, so a blog like http://www.letterstocamp.net, with creative ideas for those days when I’m out of them, well I’d call that the power of the Internet! We all have the option to take what we want and to leave the rest and form our own opinions, but I like the joke of the day idea. I like keeping my child’s brain stimulated by sharing an SAT word or math problem of the day (in fact, my 14 year old asked me to send them). I like giving them roots and wings … a grounded self of sense and a desire to soar, with the love and support of family and friends.

  88. Danielle June 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    along the same lines, just ran into this article about a new book on how to play with your kids.. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_FEA_PARENTING_THE_ART_OF_ROUGHHOUSING?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-06-14-11-31-13

    “Parents usually aren’t doing it exactly the right way, ” seriously?? There is a whole thing on how to “twirl” right…. and here I was thinking you just spun around in circles until you were both falling over laughing….. goodness… I have been twirling and roughhousing wrong my whole life!!!

  89. Rachel June 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    The first time my brother went to camp, the counsellors unwisely got the kids to write a quick postcard home on the first evening not long off the bus, just before supper.
    It was a week-long camp, and the day before he arrived home, my parents got a note that read something like this:

    “Hi Mum and Dad, camp is okay so far. We haven’t done anything until now, but they told us all the rules what we are and aren’t allowed to do. I dont know anyone yet, noone has talked to me. I’m very hungry, I hope they give us some food soon.”

    The next day, my parents picked him up from the bus – he’d had a ball!

  90. Steve June 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm #


    Three things came to mind concerning this topic.

    1.) Don’t you think the internet and blogging has encouraged this kind of thing? We have all these people out here wanting to fill a niche, wanting to be unique, thinking ” Hmmm, I wonder what expertise I have that can help somebody.

    2.) Don’t you think that some people might think of Free Range Kids the same way? You know, they come across it and say, “Good Grief, you mean somebody actually has a blog about what should come naturally? Just letting your kids play and have some independence like we all did when WE grew up? Really? And lots of people actually READ this blog and leave long comments??

    3.) Do people really send Real Paper Letters to kids at camp these days? How old fashioned is THAT?

  91. Sean June 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    This is a good point. Instead of everything being a moral or education ‘learning opportunity’ or kids being treated like fragile glass, what is wrong with just being-with them, relaxing, and enjoying now?

  92. Tuppence June 15, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    The problem is one of authenticity. Some of the responses here were concerned about “uneducated” parents who wouldn’t know how to write a proper letter and might need help. That’s a lot of hooey. I’d rather have a genuine letter from my “illiterate” loved one, than a generic one from a template.

    I couldn’t believe that remark about the camp that gives (demands parents take!!) PARENTING classes for the program the KIDS are going to! Say again? They can’t take any chances I suppose. There may be some renegades out there who haven’t read How to Talk so Kids will Listen. Best to level the playing field, bring those bad parents up to snuff. Cause (lean in close), I know it’s hard for us “good” parents to believe, but, sigh, some parents need it. Sigh. Let’s face it, there are just some bad parents out there. Some even use nannies. Yes. Nannies. Can you believe?? I know what’ll be fun – let’s all go “Tut tut” at the same time. That’ll feel good.

    Why are we constantly insisting parents have to be better than they are? Parenthood shouldn’t be about “doing it right”. STOP saying it is a hard job. Stop thinking about it as a “job” at all. Is being a wife a job? Is being a brother a job? Is being son or daughter a job? Are you reading all sorts of books and attending classes on how to be a better sister?

    I remember my first year of college, another student (who was obviously old enough to know better) said she always hated The Brady Bunch, because her family was nothing like that, and it made her feel bad about her own family. Wow. She confused a TV show with real life. That was weird. At least The Brady Bunch was so hokey that most of us figured out that although we were being shown a family that was supposed to represent perfection, we didn’t buy it. We didn’t aspire to be like them. We knew we were better off with our own rag-tag AUTHENTIC families than that insipid FAKE one (although that house was bitchin’).

    The “perfect” families on television were lame. And thus their ability to make most (not that other student, apparently) folks feel bad about how they were doing things was limited. But they have been replaced with something more insidious, something more sophisticated, that actually can almost always make people question the way they do things, and really does manage to encourage a lot of people to chuck out authenticity in the name of “perfection” .

    The thing’s moniker is Self Help. Its form takes various shapes: “How to” parenting books, parenting classes, therapy (for parent and child), and even still, TV shows (albeit now in another format, the talk show). The message is more or less singular — you cannot be left to your own devices. If you were, you would screw it up.

    Let’s cry “uncle” with all this crap BEFORE we’ve all turned into the Brady’s. Let’s say we’re enough as is, and don’t need constant tinkering.

  93. Dolly June 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    Eh I am going to have to agree to disagree with the consensus on this particular issue here. I don’t see it as a free range issue. I have worked in childcare a LONG time. I have seen many parents come and go and many kids come and go. Some parents are doing it wrong. Some could benefit from some education. Just because you don’t beat your kids does not mean you are not screwing them up. Never spending time with them, never complimenting them, berating them every chance you get, favoring one child greatly over another, all these things screw kids up. Why else do you think so many people end up in therapy as adults? My own mother has terrible issues to this day about some mistakes her parents made mostly that they always favored her older brother over the other kids and they also just favored boys in general over girls.

    The idea that just because you can pop a kid out automatically means you know what to do with said kid is CRAP. I see nothing wrong with some parenting classes or some parenting books. Some are overboard, but many can be very valuable.

    If parenting is so easy how come every time I go to a mom group the mothers always ask advice from one another????? Oh yeah, because it is hard. Books are good for parents who don’t know other parents they can go to for advice.

  94. Selby June 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    Last week I sat in my NYC office where the A/C was on the fritz and we were all dying in the 94-degree heat. At the same time, my girlfriend posted on FB that her kids were being dismissed early from school because of the heat and the school’s A/C was also on the fritz.

    Repeat: the school dismissed early because it was hot.

    God forbid the pwecious childwen are hot and have to deal with being hot because that just NEVER happens out in the real world, right? They must never be outside in frigid temperatures because they will never as adults, stand in the frigidity waiting for a bus or train. And they must never go to camp and not get a letter because growing up they will never wait for a phone call/the email/the letter/the check that never comes, right?



  95. Tuppence June 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Dolly you are, what, back in the day, we in New York, used to call — a pissa. Meaning you are good for a laugh.

    FYI: You mistake what you personally don’t like for being objectively bad. This is irrational. I’m going to explain. I know it won’t be easy, but do try to follow, okay?

    Let’s imagine there is a man named Paul. And let’s also imagine a food stuff called olives. Paul hates olives. He loathes them. He thinks olives are disgusting. His distaste for olives even makes it unbearable for Paul to see OTHER people eating olives. Paul thinks olives are bad. There’s no convincing him otherwise. But olives aren’t bad, are they Dolly? No. Just because Paul hates olives, doesn’t mean that olives are a Bad Thing. Objectively, they are not.

    Now let’s take one of the numerous examples where you’ve averred your ability to spot the parents who are “doing it wrong”:

    You believe parents using a nanny so that they themselves can sleep through the night is wrong. You believe part of the “job” (cause it’s a job,right? A really horrible, tough one, right? Only for the blessed and enlightened like you, right?) of being a parent is sacrificing sleep. And — and all Dolly’s wisdoms are spun out from this one sacred, central belief — you believe (make that, you, Dolly KNOW) you are a good parent. If someone sees the “job” of being a parent differently than you, well they must be wrong. And moreover, they must be a bad parent. Because YOU, Dolly, are the good one. You are the prototype. Look up “good parent” in the dictionary, and there’s a picture of Dolly.

    That’s the way your mind works. And it’s kind of frightening to observe, to be honest.

    “Some parents are doing it wrong” — Dolly, you’re a pissa.

  96. pentamom June 15, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    “Not that this is about Angelina Jolie, but I can’t imagine what is wrong with her having a nanny for each kid.”

    I can’t think of a moral or philosophical argument against it.

    But practically? It seems unhealthy to split up the kids into different sub-families, and to raise kids in that kind of air of *extreme* pampered privilege. It might be hard to call it “wrong,” but it definitely seems “worse” to me than raising them in something remotely resembling a normal family situation where there’s a bunch of kids with a mom and dad and maybe a nanny to help out when it gets to be too hectic or complicated.

  97. Myriam June 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Raising children is tough in some ways. It is often frustrating, emotionally and physically demanding and relentless, especially in the early years. It requires a large investment of time and money. A certain resourcefulness comes in handy, as does patience, but you’re kind of forced to develop those characteristics as you go by the very fact of being a parent.

    I just don’t think it’s particularly COMPLICATED. There seems to be a whole industry devoted to making it seem more complicated than it is. Ironically, that undermines what for me is one of the keys to being a good parent: ENJOYING being around your children – hard to do that when you’re busy worrying whether you’re doing it “right” or not.

  98. Hels June 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    I have only been to camp once (hated it and preferred going to Grandma’s where I could run free, instead of being marched to meals, told when to go to bed, and forbidden to go offsite unsupervised even to buy candy at the corner store less than half a mile away on a nice, residential rural street). I was there for three weeks, and I have not received a letter nor made a phone call to my parents. I am fairly sure my parents didn’t even know the town, let alone the name or address of the camp, so they couldn’t even send the letter if they wanted to.

    No, I was not abandoned – the camp trip to a camp a couple thousand miles away and in a different country was organized by my school, so my parents believed I would be taken care of once they dropped me off at the train station and checked me in with the group leader. I was 11, there were total of about 25-30 kids going with my group aged 6 to 16. The six year old did come with her 13-year old sister, though.

    The only kids at the camp as a whole who received any kind of communication from their parents during the three weeks I was there were local, from the same or neighboring towns. The rest of us were on our own. And none of us thought anything of it – we were not proud to be on our own, we were not feeling abandoned or traumatized – we just took it matter of factly and never thought of it. Though of course we did fantasize about running away and hitchhiking our way home, those were just fantazies.

  99. Hels June 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Now that I think about it… I spent 2.5 months of almost every summer until I turned 14 with my Grandma. And usually I have received one letter per month, one package per stay (with my Birthday gift), and one brief phone call every week. Since I were 3 years old. I am sure that was because there was no internet back then and my parents couldn’t figure out how to write the letters on their own.
    *eye roll*

  100. Jennifer June 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    I’d just like to point out that in some times and places, kids were pretty much raised by nannies, only interacting with their parents occasionally. And they turned out fine. As people often point out on this website, there are lots of ways to raise kids.

  101. gap.runner June 15, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    In Germany parents are encouraged not to write to their children at camp because letters from home promote homesickness. The leaders want the kids to focus on the activities and not on home. Last year my son had a 4-day camp experience with his class. They went off to a big house in the country and hiked, helped out on the neighboring farm, and played. The kids weren’t allowed to have any electronic devices. The teachers had a mobile phone that they could use to contact parents in an emergency. Parents were given that phone number but were discouraged from calling. Kids who were homesick were allowed to call home. I think that a few did, but none of them ended up going home early.

    Later this summer my son will be going to a German scout camp for one week. Again, parents are encouraged not to write to or call their kids. LIke with the school camp, only the counselors will have a mobile phone. On pickup day the parents can come early and attend a special mass and barbecue. I know that my son will be fine and will tell my husband and me, “You can go now” when we drop him off.

    I must have had the wrong parents because they never wrote to me when I was at Girl Scout or gymnastics camp. Yet I turned out okay.

    When did parenting turn into such a competitive sport? It’s not one over here yet. There are no “mommy wars” between working and stay at home moms or free range vs helicopter moms (everyone is free range in my part of Germany). the stay at home moms don’t look down on the working moms and vice versa. We know that we’re all doing our best for our kids. Parents here must be doing something right because all of my son’s German friends are very polite, well-behaved kids.

  102. SKL June 15, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Funny thing, Dolly – people who are childcare experts, psych experts, teachers, etc. – they too have problem kids. People who have attended parenting classes can also have problem kids. Thing is, kids are who they are before they are born. Parenting needs to be child-specific, and you can’t get there by reading a book. My youngest is one of the most headstrong kids I’ve ever seen. This will be a challenge and a blessing forever, because there is no changing her basic personality.

    And I think one reason people aren’t appreciating your comments is that you speak in extremes. You can’t really mean you know lots of parents who “never” spend time with their kids or abuse them and cut them down “every chance they get.”

    I absolutely agree there are sucky parents out there. I am thinking of one in particular. She does spend time with her kids, but that’s not necessarily a good thing, considering that she models terrible “values.” I could sit here and wonder why God even made such people fertile, but he must have had a plan. Many kids come out of these types of homes all the stronger.

  103. Neener June 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    @ SKL – yet again, I find myself nodding along while reading your comment. :-)

    I have a friend who is a teacher. A teacher to a room full of developmentally disabled elementary school children. She has the patience of Job and three kids herself. She just put her oldest – 11 – in a private, veryveryvery strict, Catholic school outside of our district. The other two are fine attending the same school where she teaches. This one? Hell on wheels – entitled, conceited. And mom knows it. Some people have had things to say, but she rightly ignores them.

    Mostly, parents do the best we are equipped to do with the offspring we are given.

  104. H. O June 15, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    I guess it’s a good thing these parents even let their kid go to camp! Maybe they need a letter writing instructional to be secure enough that as long as they write the perfect letter their kids will be fine at camp! Oh brother!

  105. RobynHeud June 15, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    @Tuppence, I love all of your comments. You are so right that we all have different ways and means of raising children. No one way is “right or wrong”. When I’m interested or concerned about something, I seek the information I want. I try my best to discard all of the superfluous nonsense that is absolutely everywhere and find the things that are reassuring and empowering, much like this website. I really don’t want to see it turn into another “SAHM v. Non-SAHM” or “nanny v. daycare” or “bottle v. breast”. The whole point (at least in my mind, I won’t say I speak for everyone) of free-ranging is to recognize the fact that parenting is one of those take-it-as-it-comes deals. Every family is different, every child is different and every day is different. We shouldn’t judge people based on the snapshots we see of their day-to-day lives. It’s impossible to be completely objective because we bring our own perspective, our own twist on the way we view the world. So, instead of assuming that a person is a terrible parent because they (fill in the blank here), maybe we should all step back and recognize that we’re all terrified of being judged, and so we judge others in self-defense in a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. Stop judging, start helping and get to know those “bad” parents. They’re not much different from you or me.

  106. wellcraftedtoo June 16, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Hee hee, I agree, the post (on how to write letters) is pretty weak. But, hey, got to give ’em credit–at least they’re writing, and not calling, visiting (!), texting, Facebooking, Tweeting…!

    One of my fav memories of sending our two to camp, and, yes, I did write them, was writing them early enough so that, in theory at least, a letter would be waiting when, or soon after, they arrived. I liked doing this, and the camp (which has operated for almost 100 years and is one of the most relaxed, old fashioned I’ve found) encouraged it.

    With the postal service traveling to rural MI at a pace slower than the Pony Express, this meant that I wrote them around five days in advance of their departure!

    Often they were upstairs, asleep, as I penned that first letter!

    Nice memories.

  107. Arlene Marie Daniels June 16, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    Well, okay, I must admit that that’s a little too helpful. Writing a letter to your kid should be from the heart and not ripped off from the internet. It’s not a resignation letter for goodness’ sake! Haha. However, I do believe that sometimes, parenting experts can shed good wisdom too. Especially for those who experience problems with handling or communicating with their kids. Try http://www.growingupchildren.com for example. :)

  108. Jynet June 16, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    hcunn, on June 15, 2011 at 07:35 said:
    How do you open the letter if your kid isn’t named “Michael” or “Mikey”?

    BAHA! Thanks, I need a new keyboard now…. coffee and keyboards don’t mix people!


    To the off-off-topic conversation:

    My child’s NEEDS are equal in importance to my NEEDS, but my WANTS outweigh her WANTS.

    If she NEEDS new clothing we buy her new clothing. It is neither of better or worse quality than the clothing that I buy for myself. If I am willing to spend $50 on a pair of jeans for myself I will pay that much for a pair of jeans for her, etc.

    If she WANTS a new iphone I am only willing to get her a ‘free’ phone with contract. She can earn the rest or use her money from gifts for the upgrade. But if *I* want a new iphone I go and get it. I earned the money. It is mine to spend as I will, she doesn’t deserve a new iphone unless she has earned it… just like I did.

  109. EricS June 16, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    @ Steve: I understand your point about being helpful to other parents, which is commendable. I try to give advise too, but only when necessary or asked of. Personally, I learned my parenting from what I’VE learned growing up. Somethings my parents did were SO old school it was ridiculous. Somethings…well…somethings are just timeless and applies to any generation. Then there’s the things that worked on me, and the things that didn’t. Not all kids are going to be the same, but if you work with them early enough, it makes for a good base for them to grow. I’ve never needed any self help book, or counciling, or watching “experts” on TV. If anything, whenever I do look into those things, it’s just out of curiosity to see what they have to say. Oddly enough, most times, I’m already doing most of what they said. And that’s just from my own trial and errors. Parents need those trial and errors, just as much as kids. Parents may be grown ups, but they haven’t grown up completely as parents. I’m still learning as I go, but instead of books, blogs, and tv shows, I use my own experience, logic and common sense.

    To answer your thoughts:

    1.) Don’t you think the internet and blogging has encouraged this kind of thing? We have all these people out here wanting to fill a niche, wanting to be unique, thinking ” Hmmm, I wonder what expertise I have that can help somebody.

    Absolutely…it fuels the holier than thous, as well as the paranoid. How else do you think society has turned into what it is today? It wasn’t like this 15+ years ago. Too much looking for answers from others, not enough using one’s own common sense.

    2.) Don’t you think that some people might think of Free Range Kids the same way? You know, they come across it and say, “Good Grief, you mean somebody actually has a blog about what should come naturally? Just letting your kids play and have some independence like we all did when WE grew up? Really? And lots of people actually READ this blog and leave long comments??

    IMO, we don’t really tell others how they should be. We just point out how it used to be, and ask the question “why has it changed, why does it need to, it was fine before, and things were worse back then”. We Free-Rangers are basically just putting the old school, tried and tested thoughts back into people who have strayed, following and believing whatever the media has thrown at them.

    3.) Do people really send Real Paper Letters to kids at camp these days? How old fashioned is THAT?

    lol. I’m with you on this one. I wonder if kids are allowed to bring mobile devices to camps these days.

  110. Uly June 16, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    “Yesterday was sunny and in the 80s. We woke up at 7 and walked the dog.” What the heck is this, a letter or a weather report?

  111. Jules June 16, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    We all need experts to tell us how to raise our kids, that way we’ll have someone to blame when, God forbid, we screw something up. Like writing a bad camp letter.

  112. Dolly June 16, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    Tuppence: Oh I am a “pissa” alright. I don’t take crap from anyone and I call it like I see it. I have lots of friends and admirers because many people find that refreshing and amusing.

    This blog has a lot of posters that seem to really think that all parents are good and we should just give them the benefit of the doubt even if you have tons of evidence that is not the case. I DID know the parents I was talking about. Fairly well. I knew the kids VERY well. It is not like just some random stranger I saw once. I was not the only one that had that opinion either so I know it was not just me.

    You know the stereotype of the richie rich mom and dad who has kids and then has the nanny raise them and only brings the kids out on occasion to interact with or show off? Or the richie rich mom who does not work but spends her days at the spa or doing “lunch” with her other rich friends and still has a nanny to mind her child 24/7? Yeah, well that is how one of the moms I was talking about was. Sorry no way in heck you will ever convince me that is “Good” parenting. If you don’t work then you need to be the one taking care of your own kids except for the occasional break. Why have them if you didn’t want to fool with them? I taught dance to her little girl and the woman was a piece of work and everyone thought so. That is terrible parenting. How can you honestly argue it wasn’t?!

  113. pentamom June 16, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    On top of everything else, I agree with those who say the content of that letter is just odd. I don’t tell my kids what I did all day long when they’re home, why would I put it in a letter? I mean sure, if something interesting or important happened, if I had a particularly good or bad day, I’ll share it with the family, or maybe I’ll just mention what I did for the heck of it. But reading our crossed-off to-do lists, daily weather reports, and menus to one another is not the normal way my family interacts (nor, I suspect, is it for most families) so why would it be the recommended thing to put in a letter?

  114. Robin June 16, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Dolly, most of us were raised with some kind of dysfunctional family. We all survived and this generation will too. The kids of the “richie rich” moms will either grow up to be just like them or they’ll see that it wasn’t any fun and try to do better for their kids. As long as they provide food, shelter and clothing with no abuse, it’s not terrible parenting. It’s just not what you think is best.

    Jynet has it exactly right. My kids don’t have a lot of frills. Would it bankrupt us? Probably not. Will they appreciate it more when they earn it themselves? Absolutely. All of a sudden, iPods and phones don’t get lost when it’s their money.

  115. Uly June 16, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    “I have lots of friends and admirers because many people find that refreshing and amusing. ”

    Once again, Dolly is perfect and everybody thinks so. Everybody that none of us knows, that is.

  116. Donna June 16, 2011 at 3:36 am #

    SKL – I know people who run their household much like a corporation – the parents control every minute detail of their children’s lives but never do any of the “heavy work” themselves. They create detailed menus, schedules and rules but rarely actually eat with their children, take them to any of the activities, watch their performances, put them to bed or interact with them in any personal way. The nannies (usually more than one) do everything while the parents mostly just make sure that the nannies are following their rules explicitly. The children and parents are not connected on a personal level at all. The parents are very open about it. It seems to be a status symbol in some portions of the population. I don’t get it but whatever floats their boats.

    The point was not that they are awful parents. I don’t think all crackheads are awful parents either. The point was that someone who is disengaged from their child because he has essentially left the active childrearing to the nannies is highly unlikely to then be so dedicated to writing to that same child that he will look up pointers on the internet. Anyone who is engaged with their children, whether they have a nanny or not, can probably write a letter to camp without help.

  117. SKL June 16, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    “If you don’t work then you need to be the one taking care of your own kids except for the occasional break.”


    I really think my kids are better off being cared for in different ways by different people. Of course, I am one of those people, and I’m the boss of all of them as pertains to my kids, and the buck definitely stops here. But other people have lots to share with my kids, so what is the problem? I really believe my kids and I enjoy each other more because we don’t have to be together 24/7. (Though the occasional sick / lazy day is nice.) If I didn’t work but still had the same money, I’d still send my kids to preschool and extracurriculars, and they’d have a part-time nanny who could teach them about their birth culture/language, and they’d spend quality time with family and friends away from Mom. And they would spend time entertaining themselves, even more than they do now.

    Look, I get that there are a few (very few) parents who are almost allergic to their own kids – who choose not to spend the basic minimum healthy time with their kids, even though they could. Maybe you do know one of them. But it comes through very clear in your posts that you look down upon many/most parents just because they prioritize differently from you, without any evidence that your way would be far better for their children. I’m glad you feel confident in your parenting, but apparently you don’t think most other parents deserve to feel likewise.

  118. SKL June 16, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    Donna, you must move in different circles than I do, LOL. I honestly don’t know any parents like that. Even the workaholic moms I know will at least make it a point to check in with the children about their day before tucking them into bed.

    Oh, wait a minute – my sister whose baby is in the NICU sometimes doesn’t see her toddler every day. She’s kind of between a rock and a hard place, though.

    It just struck me that sending a kid off to sleep-away camp must seem like the worst parenting decision, to someone who believes moms should spend all the time they can with their kids.

  119. Library Diva June 16, 2011 at 4:30 am #

    “Mostly, parents do the best we are equipped to do with the offspring we are given.”

    Absolutely agree. I think that’s Lenore’s main objection to the original post referenced. You’re not going to scar the kid for life if you write the “wrong” kind of camp letter, or no letter at all. This is your kid, you shouldn’t worry if it’s fresh or original enough. It’s a way to keep in touch, not something that’s going to be submitted to the American Letter-Writing Hall of Fame.

    I think that’s at the heart of the Free-Range philosophy. It’s not just giving the children more freedom, but you as a parent, to not worry so much if you’re playing your fetus the “right” kind of music, painting the walls an appropriate color, etc. When you were a fetus, you heard whatever happened to be on in the house at the time, your nursery was painted whatever paint color your parents happened to like/was on sale at the time/was left over from doing the dining room, and when you got letters at camp, they contained whatever your parents felt like writing. And look, yay, you survived to adulthood with the skills to read this blog!

  120. SKL June 16, 2011 at 4:35 am #

    I just realized I have never received a letter of any kind from either of my parents. No wonder I’m so screwed up.

  121. Neener June 16, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    @ EricS: I wonder if kids are allowed to bring mobile devices to camp these days.

    Not either of the camps my daughter has been to over the last 6 years, and none that I reviewed before deciding where she should go. All I saw had very strict “no electronics of ANY kind” policies – covering cell phones, iPods, Nintendos, iPads, etc. And that’s EXACTLY what I wanted! One even had a statement that *parents* had tried to sneak cell phones in their kid’s gear. Geez, these parents with their special snowflakes… *eyeroll*

    The only bummer was that she couldn’t take her Kindle. I did understand the reasoning, though – the camp can’t vet the content, and the kid might share whatever they’re reading. Since we seem to specialize in “banned” books, I can see how this could pose a problem. 😉

  122. pentamom June 16, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    “And look, yay, you survived to adulthood with the skills to read this blog!”

    And the beautiful thing is, this cuts both ways. My mom was arguably quite overprotective in some ways, though I grew up in the era where being allowed to go off for hours on my bike was quite normal, so I wasn’t restricted in that way. But here I am, two arms, two legs, a college degree, and five kids doing pretty okay so far. I’m even learning to let go. 😉

    Not that it doesn’t matter what you do, or that choices are unimportant, but generally speaking, we don’t need to stress over getting it absolutely right every possible moment.

  123. Dolly June 16, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Oh yes Uly, and how many people know you on here? Oh wait, none of us know each other in real life. Der…..

  124. joanne June 16, 2011 at 6:22 am #


    In all my years of camp counseling I can say it is more the camp doesn’t want the responsibility of your kid’s expensive electronics than their concern over what is on their expensive electronics. If something were to happen to it you may say, ‘well daughter it was your responsibility and you didn’t fulfill it,’ but some parents won’t and they’d blame us.
    Additionally some of the girls I worked with would get themselves really worked up over something breaking or getting damaged, even if their parent would probably not care too much. I had more girls sobbing over something that broke and when I would talk to the parents on pick up day the parents’ attitude was along the lines of “Eh, that’s why we sent the old flashlight and not the new one.” In six years I became an expert at those sleeping bag stuff sacks because the girls would freak out about their parents’ reaction if the bag wasn’t back in the stuff sack properly.

  125. Dolly June 16, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    SKL: I am not trying to be mean when I say this. You sound like a good mom. But it is also very clear in your posts that you have a chip on your shoulder about being a working mom. Anytime anyone even gets close to putting down working moms (which I don’t as long as they are good moms) you get uppity. So it appears we both have our buttons that can get pushed. I don’t like parents who don’t parent. You don’t like anyone putting down working moms. Fair enough.

    I have lots of mom friends so you know, if I find everyone lacking except me, why would they hang out with me? Maybe because I think they rock at parenting and compliment them regularly on it? Must be it. I have some mom friends who I don’t always see eye to eye on every parenting decision I or they have made, but we don’t let it get in the way of our friendship. In the end, we are all still awesome moms. If someone was a terrible mom I would not be able to be friends with them and yes, that is probably why I cannot get along with my SIL.

  126. Violet June 16, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    You should see the garbage we get from the school! Endless suggestions for things we can do with our child in the evening. I wish! My child spent hours doing their stupid homework every night so we barely had time to do anything that we wanted to do as a family.

  127. Violet June 16, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    Eric: I am not here getting advice. I am just happy to hear about other parents who aren’t crazy!

  128. SKL June 16, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    Dolly, I think you are probably a very nice person, and I mean that. It just doesn’t come across in the way you write, most of the time.

    And I doubt I get “uppity” much, but I do get defensive. What I’d really like to do is have my 4yos play with your 4yos, and that would probably convince you that kids can be brought up “my way” and still be pretty awesome kids.

    For the record, I’m pretty sure I have not attacked your parenting style, nor who you are as a person.

  129. Taradlion June 16, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    When talking to a friend about having given up swimming after my daughter was born, I said, “If I was not working, I might take the time for myself…but I just don’t want to spend any more time away from her.”

    My friend responded, “Because you want to teach her how to be a martyr?”

    The article “How to Land Your Kids in Therapy” is worth a read….

  130. Jespren June 16, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    I went to camp every summer from summer after 3rd grade to summer after 12th grade (maybe even 2nd grade and some years more than one). In all that time I got exactly three letters. One year camp set up a spinning wheel with various oddball items like ‘chubby bunny’, ‘polar dip’, ‘pie in the face’, ‘camp song’, etc on it. Anyone who got 3 or more letters in a day had to spin the wheel (there were plenty of kids who had parents, siblings, friends etc who all wrote a couple of times so at least 1 someone got 3 letters a day). My mom found out about the wheel. My letters? 1st: Did you, 2nd: get a, 3rd: pie in the face?
    Yes, yes I did.

  131. Uly June 16, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    Yeah, Dolly, and a lot of people here don’t like me all that much either. (Heck, a lot of people here don’t like a lot of the other people here. All these strong personalities, I guess.)

    But you’re the only one here who posts about how much everybody likes you, and you do it so often you ought to trademark the phrase “they just love me!”

    Nobody else needs to prove that they’re really popular everywhere but here.

    That said, now that I’m calm-cool-collected again (sorta), you’ve all got to check out this awesome parkour video. Freerunning? I’ve never been clear on the distinction, really.


  132. Uly June 16, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    The article “How to Land Your Kids in Therapy” is worth a read…

    The article “How to Land Your Kids in Therapy” is totally unsubstantiated. The much more obvious conclusion from “kids with very involved loving parents sometimes still end up unhappy in early adulthood” isn’t “normal variation in parenting techniques is ALL IMPORTANT! Even if you try hard you can make your kids MISERABLE!” it’s “Gee, sometimes no matter what you do, your kids end up in therapy. Parenting, no matter how awesome and wonderful, doesn’t protect your child against LIFE.”

  133. Metanoia June 16, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    @SKL “I just realized I have never received a letter of any kind from either of my parents. No wonder I’m so screwed up.”

    Neither did I and I stayed at week long school camps. I’m wondering if “send a letter to your kid at camp” is an Americanism??? Cause noone I knew at camp got a letter… we were there to do camp, there is plenty of time when you get home to swap stories about what you did when you were away.

    Hell… when I was in Japan for a month with school I sent a couple of postcards home, but never heard from my parents. This was before internet was readily available everywhere…

  134. Metanoia June 16, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    @Uly I actually have a running joke with my partner (soon to be husband) about having kids. I want to be a SAHM when the time comes and we joke about it being “so I can screw up our kids myself”. 😀

  135. taradlion June 16, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    hmmm…I didn’t take away from the article “normal variation in parenting techniques is ALL IMPORTANT! Even if you try hard you can make your kids MISERABLE!”

    but rather: Kids who are the “center of the universe” with over-involved parents who do everything for them, protect them from ever feeling disappointed, tell them they are awesome all the time, and require very little of them (other than excelling in school/etc) are not prepared for real life….and are unhappy young adults….

    Maybe it is because I had already read Wendy Mogel’s books (she’s interviewed in the article/author of Blessings of a Skinned Knee and Blessings of a B-) and read the book Nation of Wimps (which also talks about “Tea Cup College Students”, etc more in depth), that the article was a quick summary for me…

    Sorry if the recommendation fell flat….

  136. mighthavejoy June 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Certainly how our children turn out is the result of complex interactions between the personalities they come with, how they are raised, their environment and the people in it, and so on. Absolutely. I am simply amazed at how different my children are from each other, how different their memories are, how different their teachers have been, and even the homes we lived in when they were born. My life and circumstances have changed over the years I have been a parent as well. And I often wonder what each child will take with them of their cumulative childhood experiences.

    That being said, I don’t believe the “How to Screw Up Your Kids” article is “unsubstantiated.” The idea of different outcomes related to different parenting styles (high vs. low expectations and high vs. low warmth) has been around for a long time (and researched). The parenting style described in the article is a combination of low expectations and high warmth, sometimes labeled “indulgent parenting.” The outcome, ironically, is that children don’t feel loved, valued, and capable. Instead, they feel entitled, anxious, and incompetent

    While the article was anecdotal, I found myself agreeing with a lot of what was said, based on my observations and experience both as a parent and as a family counselor. (Yes, that’s anecdotal, too.) One thing I try to emphasize in talking with parents is that being a “good enough” parent is actually easier/happier/less stressful/better for the child in the long run than being a “perfect” parent.

    And regardless of why we’re all screwed up, if therapy helps, that’s cool.

  137. Myriam June 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    I came across a great quotable comment from the Daily Mail online (of all places) regarding that Bryan Caplan who’s been all over the media recently arguing that parents have little to no effect on how their children turn out in the long run.

    Anyway, this woman wrote in to say: “As a parent to three children I have discovered that it doesn’t matter what you do for your kids, they will still be miserable if they really want to”.
    Well I thought it was funny.

  138. SKL June 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Myriam, that’s true! Even though I know it’s ridiculous, I’ve found myself telling my 4yo more than once: “I don’t know why you are being so unpleasant. I did nothing that should upset you. I did A, B, and C to make you happy/comfortable. And apparently all it did was piss you off. That’s the last time I go out of my way to make you happy.” LOL!

  139. Neener June 16, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    LOL – The version at my house goes, “Wow – uncalled for! What crawled up your butt and started building a nest?!?!?”

  140. Dolly June 17, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    I have also had the “Why are you yelling at me when I am just trying to do something nice for you?” moments. I am taking them to the playground and they are giving me a hard time about getting out the door like they are doing me a favor or something! Uh no!

  141. Meka June 17, 2011 at 5:27 am #

    A story:
    I’m helping my 2 little kids figure out how to divide a pack of gum on the checkout line when Dave, the cashier, puts his hand on mine. “I can’t tell you how it warms my heart to see how you interact with your children. It almost makes me cry. I see all kinds of humanity come through here. I try to engage the kids, but it’s like they’re drugged. It’s because the parents don’t interact with them.”
    “Parenthood is above all a relationship, not a skill to be acquired. Attachment is not a behavior to be learned, but a connection to be sought.” – Gordon Neufeld, Hold On to Your Kids

  142. Dolly June 17, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    That’s a sweet story Meka

  143. Donna June 17, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    I agree that there is definite a level of being a “good enough” parent. I certainly don’t think that I’m the world’s best parent but we get by fine. My kid is happy, healthy and so far not too screwed up. I’m happy being her parent. All is good in our world. I think much of why people find parenting so stressful is this need to be perfect. Yes, occasionally simply interacting with my child is stressful but that’s because she’s 5.5. 5.5 year olds can be annoying at times. But parenting in general is much less stressful if you realize every single interaction is not going to drastically impact the future.

    That said, we can’t dismiss parenting entirely. I deal with truly bad parents on a daily basis. Not parents that rise to the level of abuse but parents who contribute little of positive value to their children’s lives (or society). The kids generally end up as much of a drain on society as their parents. There is a reason that poverty, welfare and criminality are all multi-generational. There is a reason that I manage to represent every single member of some families (often many simultaneously) and none of others. It’s frequent that even a brief meeting with a client’s parents fully explains why the “child” is the way that he is.

  144. Donna June 17, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Dolly, I don’t think that most here would argue that there are not bad parents in the world. The problem is that you seem to have a very narrow band of what constitutes good parenting. Any variation for what Dolly would do is seen as bad parenting.

    There is a very wide range of acceptable parenting. It may not be a choice that you personally would make, but that doesn’t make it inherently bad. Honestly, having a nanny outside of work hours is simply a life-style choice and not bad parenting. Bad parenting is taking your 9 year old with you to burglarize a building. Bad parenting is teaching your teenager the family business of breaking into soda machines and getting both of you arrested. Bad parenting using your kid as a drug runner. Bad parenting is leaving your kid in the car while you go into hotels and screw men for money.

  145. Uly June 17, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    To continue with what Donna is saying, there are also levels of bad parenting.

    Feeding your kids potato chips for breakfast is probably not going to win you the Mom of the Year Award… but it’s preferable to starving your kid.

    Letting your kid scream and yell in the library is pretty sucky… but I’d rather that than having you beat your kid to a bloody pulp and then not take him to the doctor because people would guess you’re an abusive ass.

    “Bad” parenting that isn’t actually abusive (and note that somebody could get it “wrong” in one area while being “right” in another, and we’ll leave it up to everybody to figure out what right and wrong are) probably doesn’t matter in the long run.

  146. LRH June 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Uly and Donna have it right. The thing is, too–I don’t think any of us who are parents STRIVE towards being “good enough,” we want to do the best–but the hassles of life and the fact that our own needs still do matter, even though they’re not ALL that matter, will mean that on occasion in certain realms we may well ourselves go along with “good enough” parenting–AND it ought to be socially acceptable to do so, especially if you otherwise tend to strive to do the best you can.

    Besides, one can easily beat other parents over the head because you think that what they’re doing is abusive or neglectful when it may well be “good enough” parenting. The parent that cooks their child a full meal for breakfast, as I do, could judge someone else who is doing the “good enough” thing by giving them Cheerios. Yet still, that’s better than giving them potato chips isn’t it? And are you really a bad parent just because you don’t imitate Aunt Jemima and/or Quaker Oats every single morning? That’s what we need to get straight, and outsiders especially.


  147. Myriam June 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    I agree with Donna that we can’t dismiss parenting altogether. The aforementioned Bryan Caplan goes too far for me, although he claims to have the evidence.

    On the other hand, people used to talk about a child’s “upbringing” and “background” in the nature/nuture debate, now it’s mostly “parenting”. Background includes all sorts of things, not just moral guidance or lack thereof by parents; it also includes the type of housing you live in and the type of neighbourhood you grow up in and schools you go to to mention just three things that I think have a big impact.

    I think parenting is a new word and it represents a change of focus; although sometimes it’s just a synonym for child-rearing, often it’s shorthand for a few techniques and practices that society has decided are the right way too go: reading to your child; talking to your child (in the right way); being firm (but not too much). What’s considered good parenting has changed over the decades, but even when parenting was different working class people still had children that grew up to be working class and middle class people still had children that grew up to be middle class (that’s leaving aside extreme cases like people directly teaching their children the tricks of the criminal trade, yes then the causal link is pretty direct!).

    People should talk to their children though, but just because it’s the right thing to do.

  148. SKL June 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    I don’t mean to say that parenting does not matter, only that there are many parenting styles that still produce pretty good kids most of the time. And there is no parenting style that produces awesome all-around kids all the time. The point is to build your parenting style around your personal values and your kids’ personalities.

    Personally I can only take so much of being “talked at” and I am not much of a talker myself in public. I’m more of a hands-on learner and a reader. I can’t imagine my mom telling me how to divide a pack of gum at the store. One, because my parents didn’t accompany me to the store after I started getting an allowance (at age 5). Two, because I wasn’t allowed gum, LOL. Three, because I would have worked it out myself more effectively than listening to someone tell me how to do it. Even with my own kids, I rarely tell them how to do stuff – if they need guidance, I ask them questions so they get used to applying the knowledge they already have to solve the problem at hand. It works for us – but that’s just us.

  149. Danielle June 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    SKL- That is exactly what I do with my son, though he is still small (only 3) there is plenty that he can work out on his own. One of the first words I taught him was help, because if he is trying to do something and needs help, I would rather him ask then throw a frustrated fit…. after help, I taught him to take a deep breath and try again, because he does NOT like having to ask for help! But he’s gotten really good at knowing what his own abilities and limitations are, and if I think he is capable even after he doesn’t then I walk him through it! I have found that he attempts a lot more than kids whose parents just do things for them. Now this can be both good and bad, but failure and a little bit of hurt are a part of growing up, and he is already capable of soooo much, I can’t wait to see how far he goes!

  150. Robin June 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    This isn’t really on topic but the gum story got me thinking about this. I have 2 kids. The best advice I ever got was if the kids have to divide something to share, have one child divide it and the other one get first choice of pieces. The child that does the dividing will try their hardest to make each piece the same, otherwise the other child will get the biggest one! It works amazingly!

  151. Christy Ford June 18, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    Can I just say, I love this blog. I really do. Since I started following it a while ago I’ve learned SO much thaI I plan on putting to good use someday when I have kids of my own.

  152. Neener June 18, 2011 at 1:48 am #

    @ Robin – That’s EXACTLY how my husband’s family did it while he was growing up with three siblings. My mother-in-law told me she’d point at one at random and say “you divide” and at another one and say “you decide”. That was fairness in action! :-)

  153. Uly June 18, 2011 at 2:17 am #

    Neener, with three kids, if you don’t want to be involved, there’s another way.

    One person divides as evenly as possible, then closes his/her eyes. The other children point to slices, and s/he calls out names at random. Everybody gets what they get.

    That’s the method described in Bloody Jack, anyway. Triple Detente by Piers Anthony (before I knew he was crazy) has a third method, where one person divides, the next sub-divides, and so on until everybody is equally satisfied.

  154. pentamom June 18, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Piers Anthony crazy, Uly? Do tell. I don’t know much about him, beyond having read a couple of his novels before deciding he was a decent writer with the sexual and emotional maturity of a thirteen year old boy, and losing interest. But I’d not heard anything about him being crazy.

  155. Uly June 18, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    I hate to say it on this site, but apparently he has actual bona fide issues with children and sex. But you know, I never bothered to confirm that after hearing it from two or three people I trust!

  156. Sky June 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    ] “The idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to “relate” to our kids.”

    Ummm…didn’t you kind of right a book about that, though? I mean, about the right way (free ranging) and wrong way (helicoptering) to relate to our kids?

    ] “I had a conversation with another mom recently who said, ‘I think camp would be great for my daughter but she was ambivalent and I never want to push her into anything.’ If I gave up every time my kids were ambivalent, we would do nothing. Ever.”

    I wouldn’t say “I never want to push my kids into anything,” but I don’t want to push them to go to overnight camp if they don’t want to go. If my kids are ambivalent about overnight camp, or indeed any extracurricular activity, I don’t push them. I don’t consider it “giving up,” because I don’t think it’s something they need to do (like chores, or eating well, or studying). I don’t believe that it matters whether or not they go to overnight camp, or pursue soccer, or do drama. When it comes to personal interests like this, I see no reason not to let them choose the activities that interest them, that are fun for them, instead of the ones I think they should like.

    Some kids don’t enjoy camp. Some are solitary or introverted and experience angst in that kind of long-term forced social situation. Some just don’t like camp-type activities. There is plenty to do in the summer. Want to stay home and do swim team every day instead of go away to camp? Want to read underneath a tree all day? That’s fine by me. The only rule we have is if you do choose to sign up for an extracurricular, you finish out the season/class – you don’t quit midway through. You don’t have to sign up again, but you don’t quit if you’ve told me you want to do it and I’ve put down the money. You honor your commitments.

    But I’m not going to waste my money and my children’s good time by requiring them to pursue an activity they don’t even think they are going to like from the get go! Why not spend that money and time on an activity in which they show genuine interest? I liked “writing camp” as a kid, in a university dorm. I hated overnight in the woods camp. My parents didn’t force me to go – I though I wanted to, but then I didn’t want to go back, and they never required me to again. I appreciate that my parents gave me the freedom to choose and pursue my own interests instead of requiring me to go to camp, or to play an instrument, or to otherwise do what they liked rather than what I liked.

    ] “Whatever we get for ourselves–Goodwill, brand-new, in-between–the kids get likewise”

    Oh, not for us. We buy better clothes for ourselves than for the kids. They always get second hand or Target. They don’t have to go to work and just roll around in the dirt half the day, after all.

    ] I also don’t get these women who don’t work-out anymore or fix themselves up because “I don’t have time because of the kids.” Some of them even are proud of–frankly–looking like old hags or bag ladies….

    You harp on this a lot. I think a lot of people (like me) don’t work out because we aren’t interested, don’t enjoy it, and looking buff is not a priority for us. For me, it isn’t because of the kids, but the kids are, quite frankly, an excuse someone like me might use around someone like you who tries to make a person feel like a piece of shit because he or she doesn’t want the same lifestyle you do, because he or she has different priorities and interests than lifting weights and running every day. When did physical vanity become such an extreme virtue in our society, anyway? It’s like the camp thing – different people have different priorities and interests. I don’t get why so few people seem to get that or to tolerate that difference. If I like doing X, it’s the right thing to do, and the only thing to do, and you should do it and like it too!

  157. pentamom June 18, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    “Oh, not for us. We buy better clothes for ourselves than for the kids. They always get second hand or Target. They don’t have to go to work and just roll around in the dirt half the day, after all. ”

    Mostly same here. I don’t work outside the home (and I really don’t mind calling myself a SAHM or HS-Mom — I don’t get what’s so amazingly horrible about an acronym) but I don’t outgrow my clothes, either. Frequently I’ll buy inexpensive clothing at Target or a good second-hand shop, but not infrequently I’ll spend more, knowing that the stuff I buy lasts years (I’ve had some stuff for probably a decade now) and that just isn’t the case with the kids.

  158. pentamom June 19, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Thanks Uly. Since it’s not confirmed I won’t repeat it, but you had me wondering. My opinion of Anthony as a writer was already not terribly high so it doesn’t really affect any actions I’d take or not take — I wouldn’t have read any more of his books or recommended or bought them for anyone anyway.

  159. Uly June 20, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    After a bit of google apparently the reason this all started is because he DID include scenes of children (like, actual children, not teenagers) seducing grown-ups in a few of his books, with (I’m relaying information, haven’t read the books in question myself) no indication that this is not the usual way of things or that it’s problematic in any way.

    Kinda like the difference between the incest in V. C. Andrews, where it really messes everybody up, and the random twincest in the Harry Potter fandom where it just happens and everybody is okay with this, which is just *skeevy* for those of us who live in the real world.

  160. pentamom June 20, 2011 at 1:14 am #

    “the random twincest in the Harry Potter fandom”

    Okay, I’m an HP fan (in the “read the books multiple times and love them” sense, not in the “sit around doing fandom things” sense) and I have no clue what this means.

    But I think I’d like it to stay that way, thanks!

  161. Uly June 20, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    I’ll let you be ignorant. You’re right, if you don’t know, you do NOT want to know.

  162. Andrew Foertsch June 21, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    If you follow their directions for writing letters you might be able pass the 4th grade FCAT test for writing in Floriduh,

  163. Emily September 9, 2012 at 5:49 am #

    They told the joke wrong. It’s supposed to say that “tooth-HURTY” is a good time to go to the dentist, but they said “tooth-thirty.”


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