I just read about a new trend in the New York Post: New York City parents can now outsource their kids’ camp packing to a professional, at the cost of $250/hour, or $1,000 for the average camper. Let me repeat that: not $1,000 for the children to go anywhere. Just to get them ready to go.
Let me say at the outset: I get it.
It doesn’t matter whether they are heading into the wild for a month, or attending an academic camp at a local university for a long weekend; camp packing is frustration’s fertile ground. You as a parent have a clear vision of what is appropriate and right in terms of clothing, footwear, and toiletries. Your kid will have a carefully calibrated and diametrically opposed stance.
Here’s how it might look in a movie, one few people would pay to see because why would they need to? They’re living it at home:
INT. CHILD’S BEDROOM-NIGHT
MOM is staring into the recesses of an overflowing duffel bag, while CHILD idly flips through his/her Instagram account nearby and tries to ignore her.
Mom: “If you’re going for the week, you’ll need two pairs of jeans, three pairs of shorts, and four tshirts.”
Child: “No, I put in six pairs of jeans, one pair of shorts, and my TFIOS tank top. And that raincoat won’t fit so I’m leaving it here.”
Mom: “But it’s supposed to rain. I’ve been reading the forecast!”
Child: “I’ll be fine. I need the space for my fourteen pairs of flip flops.”
Mom: “You need two pairs of flip flops per day?” MOM digs around in duffel bag. “All I see are stuffed animals. Where are the underpants?
MOM and CHILD sigh and eye roll. Fade to black.
It really doesn’t matter what the item of clothing is, or the quantities, or who is suggesting what be packed. What matters is the disagreement, and the belief that the other person has no idea what he/she is talking about.
Leaving aside that the Camp Packing Consultant featured in the article says that the reason parents do this is so that they can bring the feeling of home to camp, by duplicating bedding and providing extra shelving…ok, I can’t leave that aside. Have these parents missed that the entire point of camp, which is to give your child experience with a place that isn’t home, a side effect of which is adventure and an increased sense of confidence? In the parlance of the Internet, I have lost my ability to can.
Anyhoo: back to the outsourced packing. First of all, can we agree that, just as giving birth is not necessary to make a person a parent – shout out to all my adoptive and foster parent friends– there are certain experiences which, if avoided entirely, imperil your right to call yourself a mom or dad. Sleepless nights with an infant. A public meltdown by a toddler that causes other diners to shoot you the hairy eyeball. A six hour long elementary school talent show. A herky-jerky car ride with a new driver.
And overseeing the packing of a suitcase when a child is going to be gone for more than 24 hours.
I feel like we are getting to a point with modern parenting where people are so eager to opt out of the boring, unpleasant parts that we may as well just acknowledge it and investigate new parenting models. Here in the Bay Area, there are apartment buildings that offer residents the chance to share a dog who lives by the front desk. Residents can sign the puppy in and out of for walks, snuggles, whatever. Then when they’re done with the pooch, presumably right before the dog needs to relieve itself, they sign it back in to the concierge and go on with their carefree days.
My sixteen year old, for one, says she would happily sign up for a Rent-a-Kid service where people who don’t want to do the dirty work of parenting, but see the appeal of arriving at the boss’ summer picnic with a obedient, clean teenager in tow, could just rent her for a few hours. I think she’d probably make more money as a camp packing consultant, putting to use her past four summers of camping experience that taught her that yes, raincoats were invented for a reason.
But her customers would miss out on the silver lining of helping their kids prepare: it’s so annoying that when the child finally leaves, the separation will be far be less painful than you imagined. Because while you will miss them terribly, you won’t miss the nightly argument about whether anyone needs four nightgowns for three nights away.
Pack it up, pack it in, I came to win (the fight over whether or not you need to pack socks. Yes, yes you do.)