Sleep Away Camp: What age do you let the pigeons loose?

Sleep Away Camp:  What age do you let the pigeons loose?

When my oldest was in fifth grade, she wanted to be a basketball star.  She was good, but I'm not sure the word star would ever be applied when describing her skill level.  She wanted to make the high school feeder team that next year and asked to go to sleep over basketball camp.  Ugh.

I busily went about finding her a friend that could be her roommate and sent in my deposit check before I could change my mind.  My next door neighbor and close friend has been sending her kids away to camp since they were little.  We live in a large Jewish community, and it's very common to have them go to sleep over camp for either four or eight weeks.  It's not that my friend is any less protective or worried, it's just something that they've always done, and it's expected to help their children learn and grow.  My daughter was asking for four nights not four weeks but I was still having a tough time with it.

The camp was only 45 minutes away, but I arranged to have either myself or a relative visit her every night.  Yes, I needed to tackle this growing wings thing slowly.

It all ended uneventfully and precedence was set.  You could go to sleep-over camp once you reach 5th grade.

The next year, I was off the hook.  My basketball star focused more on swimming and was committed to other local adventures.  The following year I had another fifth grader, but thankfully she was so attached to home, she didn't want to go anywhere.  By the time my third one reached 5th, we made a monster move since they were all into swimming.  They went to Stanford swim camp, but I went too.  Sort of.  I vacationed with my other two kids right around the campus, so I was fairly close.

Now my fourth daughter wants to go to soccer camp and it's a year earlier than the house rule, but she's going with good friends, so I'm wavering on my original precedence.

I'm fearful that I'm going to make my kids a little neurotic and they'll either be afraid to fly the coop, or graduate high school and never look back.  I have gotten better about allowing freedom, but the sleepover thing still evades my comfort level.

Is there anyone out there that has problems letting their offspring go to sleep over camp?  I feel like I'm surrounded by friends who think I'm crazy and depriving my kids of an essential part of their development.  Will my kids grow up with a major piece of their puzzle missing?



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  • My daughter is entering 5th grade and hasn't asked to attend a sleep away camp yet. I think she may be ready for a week, but not more than that. I thought about trying to find one for her, but didn't feel the need to seek it out if she wasn't asking. I didn't go to any kind of overnight camp until jr. high, and I don't feel like a piece of the puzzle is missing. I bet your kids will all be just fine with it :)

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