Who Me? Sleepless Over Sleep Away Camp?

Sleep Away Camp Selection Strategies

My mom friend Penny joked that people spend thousands of dollars on summer sleep away camp consultants who find the perfect match for your child. Besides this large expenditure, there should be visits to prospective camps while in session and perhaps even a follow-up visit to the winner of the bake-off competition. Actually, it’s true. Most moms in our town do hire consultants and visit camps a year ahead of time. It’s like a warm up for the college application process.

And yet, I am sending her daughter with my daughter to a YMCA sleep away camp that none of us have ever set foot on. PickyKidPix, it turns out, convinced her daughter that this is the perfect camp for them to go together, and then got her to swear a blood oath not to back out. My Mom Friend Penny was fine with camp assuming that I did extensive research as I am prone to doing. So I complete shocked her with my lax attitude. That is so uncharacteristic of me, she chides me.

In my defense, as the mother of PickyKidPix, I realized a long time ago that you really don’t make life decisions for this kind of child, rather you facilitate the process once you get your marching orders. PickyKidPix did her own sleep away camp research by interrogating her friends. Once she found the camp she liked, she told me that she intended to go there next summer and to please sign her up. She even dictated which session she wanted.

She did the same thing with choosing her orthodontist. I made three appointments. The first one wanted to pull permanent teeth. The second one was giving 50-50 odds about pulling the teeth. The third one was convinced he could straighten her teeth without any extractions. She’s just like Goldilocks and she wants to keep her teeth. All of them. She chose door number 3 despite the fact he is past retirement age and we are still waiting for said permanent teeth to come in.

I did do some undercover work about PickyKidPix‘s summer camp by asking around but things checked out. Everyone’s friend’s cousin twice removed seemed to be deliriously happy from their camp experience there. It’s a YMCA camp but not the cult-like YMCA camp on the other side of the state that my other daughter, Music Lovers, is going to; again, sight unseen. The mom friends at this camp rave so much that I am already suspicious of the Kool Aid that I will be forced to drink while sleeping in a tent for a torturous Moms’ Weekend. (More on that later. I believe Mom’s weekend is in August.)

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I didn’t spend hours researching creative arts sleep away camps. And I do, in fact, have a six-inch pile of camp brochures with CDs in my kitchen. And I am still getting phone calls and a barrage of emails from camps.  It’s just that I researched sleep away camps on the Eastern Seaboard for creative arts, specifically for fine art, for Music Lovers.

“Glass art, you say? Would that be stained glass or hot glass? Do you have a studio for blowing hot glass?” Yep, I was thorough.

All this camp research was for naught because Music Lovers decided that she just wanted to go to camp with her friends. Again, she told me which camp and which session to sign her up for. It was really unfortunate that her friends ended up not being able to go but she seems resolute to go alone. She told me she was not worried and that she will just make new friends. And she will. She is good like that.

In truth, had my children not had such strong convictions of where they wanted to attend camp, I might have gone the route of the camp advisor. And I would have visited camps near and far. But I am learning to take a gift horse in the mouth. And I know that these two camps will both be a fine experience.

And so my girls go off to YMCA sleep away camp this summer with nary a visit nor a dime spent on advisory services. And I am good with it. I hope the college selection process will be as easy.

p.s. Here are some great resources to research summer sleep away camp. See? I did my homework after all!

Maine Camp Experience

The Summer Lady


Top 21 Summer Camps

Camp Professor


p.p.s. I also talked to a mom friend who attended the Cult Like YMCA camp as a child and whose three children have had the same magical experience that she did. Also, my neighbor’s son who will be a counselor-in-training tells me it’s the best experience of his life.

p.p.p.s. And, as it turns out, getting to be a counselor-in-training at these particular camps is more difficult that getting into most Ivy League colleges from an applicant to acceptance ratio. So, it’s not such a bad warm up for college after all!

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Dee

    Wow, Mia. I had no idea that summer camp had gotten so … intense! I wish I could afford to send my son to summer camp, but there’s no way I would go to those lengths. I’m sure your daughter will have a great time!
    Dee recently posted…Time for a changeMy Profile

    • Hi Dee,
      We use advisory services for just about everything around here: summer camp, applying to college, even to plan a gap year (the year off between high school and college.) Sigh! Yes, we are all nuts. Race to Nowhere was a big hit around here. It sold out three times in our local movie theater. Sigh again.

  2. Artchoo

    Summer camp was one of the best experiences of my childhood, too. I’m sending my daughter to sleepaway Girl Scout camp, site unseen, but I have heard god things about it. I suppose the Girl Scouts are rather cultish, too. Maybe that’s the secret key to making a good camp experience.
    Artchoo recently posted…Cool Summer Kid ItemsMy Profile

  3. Ann

    Fascinating! Are your girls going for the whole summer, half? I honestly don’t know how it works. Growing up on the Cape, I just didn’t know anyone who went to camp! Sounds awesome though! Love the idea of performing arts camp!
    Ann recently posted…The past, present, & exciting future… Come on in!My Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      One will go for 4 weeks, the younger of the girls for 2 weeks. I grew up in California where there are no such things as camps. Not even day camps. Maybe, a week of surf camp or sailing camp (day camp) but that is about it. It’s probably because there are less private schools around there so no campus to run a day camp. I’m not totally sure.

  4. I didn’t ue anyone to find camps, either. I do love teenlife.com for middle and high schoolers and Maine Camp Experience for sleep away camps – great site – and they are giving away tuition – really – http://mainecampexperience.com/
    Capability recently posted…A Healthy StartMy Profile

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