Welcome to a new online series on parenting advice with our expert Dr. Deborah Wood.
Dear Dr. Debbie,
I need some quick advice. Our custody agreement stipulates that I have the kids for 4 non-consecutive weeks in the summer, during one of which both kids will be in camp. “Abner” (almost 12) has a week-long camp related to Boy Scouts. Attending this camp is very important to Abner since it will help him advance in scouting and I am making a sacrifice by supporting him on one of my 4 vacation weeks. “Clothilda” (my ex) is doing two other scouting weeks this summer for Abner so I took this one to do my share. I was going to register Betsy (almost 9) for an equestrian day camp near my house the same week.
Clothilda is saying that since Abner already feels I pay more attention to Betsy than him, that my having a week with Betsy (albeit after day camp) while he is away is going to make him feel even more isolated and ignored by me. Clothilda claims Betsy wants an overnight equestrian camp (never heard Betsy say a word about that but it might be true) which isn’t offered during Abner’s scout camp week, the date of which is fixed. Betsy does love to ride horses so I figured she would be thrilled either way, but I honestly think that for a girl who will just have turned nine, a first-time experience in a week-long resident camp is a bit much. Frankly I think Clothilda is just trying to manipulate me after having demanded she be included in the camp selection over which the custody agreement clearly grants me authority.
Any advice on how to proceed?
Signed Can’t Make Everyone Happy (CMEH)
Abner’s time at camp is about Abner. Your being with Betsy while he’s there is an unrelated fact. His jealousy over this is minimized (or nonexistent) when you, Clothilda, and Betsy discuss any details about her summer plans out of his earshot. This is an important skill in parenting more than one – building a relationship with each child while also managing “whole family” activities and issues.
If horseback riding is a passion of hers, this can be pursued with a series of weekly lessons, family trail rides, or father-daughter trail rides (while Abner is otherwise occupied). Lots of nearby and day trip options can be found at: http://www.horserentals.com/maryland.html
Also unrelated to who is with you when, age nine is not too young for one-week overnight camp – as long as Betsy has enjoyed several one or two-night overnights without a family member. If not, start with day camp. Has she done day camp before? Has she done so not knowing anyone else before the first day?
A week of camp has to fit in with many other factors, including cost and timing. We need to look at Betsy’s interests and abilities when making a decision about her. And leave other people out unless there’s a logistical issue. Remaining issues between you and the ex have to be kept out of this.
If you’re in charge of what the children do for four specific weeks of the summer, then Clothilda’s needs are not part of the decision. How you want to spend your time as the “parent on duty” should depend on your consideration of your own resources and the children’s interests.
Follow up question:
I am seeing the kids tonight. I am tempted to broach this subject with them and discuss it. Is this a good idea or should I just make the decision for them? I don’t have that much wiggle room with respect to camp options but perhaps discussing it would be good (or not).
Just be sure what your “bottom line” is for every choice. Options are within YOUR parameters for cost, time, distance from you (in case you’d have to retrieve a homesick child), etc. Not that I would bring up homesickness. Camp staff are familiar with the disease and its treatment.
Your discussion tonight is to glean Abner’s and Betsy’s wishes. This can be done with one child at a time. No point sending a child to a camp he or she has no interest in attending.
After decisions are made (ultimately by you), you deal with how to enjoy the time with the child who is not at camp at the moment. A refreshing opportunity for all.
Here are some resources for finding local Maryland summer camps:
The Chesapeake Family Summer Camp Fair will be held Saturday, February 26, from 10 am – 2 pm at the Annapolis Area Christian School, 716 Bestgate Road, Annapolis.
And for a comprehensive list of camp options, see the Chesapeake Family Magazine listings at: www.chesapeakefamily.com/Directories/Day-Camps and www.chesapeakefamily.com/Directories/Overnight-Camps.
Kids in College at Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold Campus: www.aacc.edu/kic/
They will host an Open House on Saturday, February 26, from 9 – 11 am, at room 100 of the Center for Applied Technologies Building (enter the campus from Ritchie Highway), at which you can consider 42 different camp choices. Extended day is optional for all day camps.
The Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks Department: www.aacounty.org/RecParks – click on Summer Camps, then scroll down mid-page and click on Summer Camps again.
There will be a Camp Fair Saturday, March 5 at Severna Park High School and on Saturday, April 2 at South River High School, from 10 am to 1 pm. Some programs are full day with extended day options for working parents.
The city of Annapolis Recreation and Parks summer camps can be found at:
Registration begins April 1st.