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While it may seem like a strange topic for this time of year, it won’t be much longer before we all begin thinking about summer camp for our children. In addition, most of the issues we face with our children are not one time occurrences and the lessons we learn can be applied all year round.

 

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Dear Dr. Respler:

This past summer we sent our daughter to a very expensive sleep away camp. Besides the cost of camp, there were additional expenses in regards to clothing, including some relating to T-shirts with the camp name and logo. While this is not where we sent her previous summers, it was where many of her classmates were going and she wanted to spend the summer with her friends from school.

Before we came up for visiting day she told us that most girls’ families had homes in the Catskills and would, therefore, be going off campgrounds for the day. As we do not have a summer home, she suggested that we come up about noon, take her out of camp for lunch, then over to Wal-Mart to buy some things she needs, then to an activity and out for dinner. She would have to be back at camp by 8:30pm.

Needless to say, this schedule sounded crazy to us. However, as she is our youngest child and the only one still at home, we wanted her to feel special. We decided to go up after Shabbos and stay in a motel near her camp. We picked her up at noon and went to lunch. Then we went to Wal-Mart to get stuff she really didn’t need and over to a friend’s bungalow to go swimming. Then we went to dinner. We took her back to camp at 8:00 p.m. and headed back to the city. As you can image the traffic was crazy. The day cost us $400 and by the time we got home at midnight we were beyond exhausted.

Dr. Respler, I heard that some of the chassidishe camps have put a stop to Visiting Day. Although I would miss seeing my daughter, these camps may be on to something. Besides the expense, the day took such an emotional toll on me that I had to call in sick on Monday and my husband was late to work.

Why do the children have to go out for lunch and dinner? Why do they have to get more things in Wal-Mart – just to keep up with their friends? My daughter also felt bad that so many of her bunkmates got food for Shabbos, including fresh challah and lots of nosh. This camp has beautiful grounds, great food and everything one can dream of. There are air conditioners in each bunk, and cleaning women who come in so the kids do not have to do chores.

I went to camp for many years. We cleaned our own bunks and did not have air conditioning. I was thrilled when my parents came to visit me for two hours and ate the special lunch the camp prepared that day for the families. No one got packages and we were allowed to call home once a week. We were happy when we got letters. My husband and I are not poor people and help support our children who are learning in kollel. We think we have good, solid values and have passed them along to our children.

Our daughter’s friends seem to be very spoiled and it makes me wonder what kind of values they are being taught. Even my daughter wonders if she should go back to this camp since her bunkmates were so spoiled, many having way too many clothes and some with private refrigerators. She felt inadequate seeing what the other girls had. I am curious about one thing: Why do parents feel the need to send Shabbos food to a camp where they have amazing food? There seems to be huge difference in how things were since our older daughters attended school and camp.

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.