I probably mentioned this last summer, but I’m still surprised at how incredibly long US school summer holidays are, with private schools coming in at around 12 weeks. So from mid June to early September parents are expected to deal with their kids. Frankly I find this a bit terrifying coming from a country where summer holidays are 6 weeks long and in fact most state schools in the UK started their break today.
Here there is camp. I had seen various incarnations of camp in US films throughout the 80s and 90s with the infamous Band Camp from American Pie being the one that mostly comes to mind. Pretty much every kid here goes to camp. There are so many to choose from, with most large institutions like the Met, Guggenheim and Natural History Museum doing them and they are so popular they sell out months in advance. Most private schools have some kind of offering too. There are masses of sports camps run by leisure centres and other organisations. In Central Park you can’t help but trip over a camper or two, there are so many around.
As a mother of a 2.8 year old who likes to hang out in the playground, I don’t like camp. I don’t like the way that large groups of unruly camp kids descend on the playground like a plague of locusts with no regard for the resident toddler population. They scream, they run and they dominate. Time it right and you’ll miss them: they arrive in the mid morning and by midday are gone, some reappear later in the afternoon, but you can get some respite.
As a mother of an 8.5 year old I like camp. I like that she can do some new stuff with new kids in a new environment. E has been to camp out of the city, where they swam and did sport and art and had fun. She’s been to art camp at a major gallery working with staff who loved art and learning so much E came home bursting with enthusiasm and ended up showing me around the gallery. By the end of the summer she’ll have been one of the kids I trip over in Central Park and have spent time with professional cartoonists learning to hone her craft.
The downside about camp is the cost. My god it is expensive and ranges from $350 to $1000 a week. Many campers will spend 8 weeks at camp, which is prohibitively expensive, especially if you have more than one kid. But if you compare it with the cost of a nanny, who don’t usually look after older kids much anyway, it’s cheaper, but not much.
You have to accept that your kid will come home filthy, ruin their clothes and pick up new and mostly unpleasant habits from their new friends. They will be looked after by people not that much older than them – some look as young as 16 and this seems to be OK here. I am still not keen on this side of it.
But, as part of the overall NY experience, I wouldn’t have wanted E to miss any of it. Next summer we will be home and it will be 6 weeks in the UK and it will probably rain. A lot.