What it’s Like to Be a Camp Family in a NON-Camp Town

Jul 13, 2018

Working with Suburban Jungle, I was crystal clear on the idea of “summer personalities” and how important it was to find a town in-step with our family’s lifestyle. The good news? We found it, and then some—our town was an unexpected find, with a relatively short commute, A+ schools and laid back approach we were looking for. The moms are friendly (and they work—a plus for me), there are plenty of restaurants, parks and activities and, while there’s a solid kids sports scene, there’s no crazy competition for spots on the travel soccer team. It’s, all-in-all, the perfect place for our family and, as we wrapped up our first year, we couldn’t believe how well the pieces came together.


What Summer Looks Like Here

The only time we truly felt out of place? In the weeks leading up to summer. While we’d been here last summer, our daughter wasn’t in school locally so we didn’t know anyone in the community. We enrolled her in a local day camp that seemed to have a good mix of area kids and hoped for the best. She loved it and, to be honest, it didn’t occur to us to find out how many neighborhood kids attended.


Fast forward to summer #2 and our first “real” year in the community. Knowing more and more moms I started to ask about summer and quickly discovered this is not a camp town, period. The local beach has a laid-back part-time option that’s more a short-term drop-off than anything. An area Y and JCC also have a half-day camp option which seems to attract a few kids here and there. While there’s a yacht club and three local country clubs, they aren’t particularly popular within our immediate community. Same with private pools—they’re few and far between within our borders. Overall, kids hang home, soaking up the community salt water pool, hitting area beaches, visiting grandma and grandpa, and taking advantage of day- or week-long half-day programs—a little cooking here, some theater there and maybe a few hours of soccer as fall starts to get closer.


The “Camp Family”

The reality? We’re a very pro-camp family and, more so, need the childcare during the day—two hours of dance camp simply isn’t an option for us. What was surprising, though, wasn’t just that no one seemed to attend day camp but, instead, the reaction we got to hearing we were a “camp family.” A perfect example? Our oldest attends a relatively popular day camp in the area, and almost no one had heard of it—this is truly not a camp town.

We got a glimpse into the future recently, though, when we spent weekends touring sleepaway camps. Our new friends couldn’t imagine sending their kids to sleepaway camp, as they told us over and over, and seemed surprised that, as one family said, “it’s still a thing.” Being a diehard camp family, we were also left scratching our heads—we had just assumed a community like this would be all about camp.




What Comes NEXT

The reality? I’d still pick this town over and over again, even though our summer personalities don’t mesh. That said, I wish I’d known and, already, I’m seeing how their personality will likely impact our future summer plans. While I’d anticipated eight weeks of sleepaway camp, now I’m considering four, paired with Camp Mom-and-Dad so our girls can hang with their friends a little more in the future. We didn’t join the community pool though we’d planned to—we just weren’t going to use it enough.


Seeing the Instagram posts now I wish we had carved out more time for the pool and the local residents-only beach—being relatively new, I think we would have made more friends and better connected with the moms and dads we met in passing, at birthdays and open houses.


My advice, then? It’s hard to find a town that’s 100% in-step with you and your family 24/7, for years or even decades. For us, our suburb is close enough. We love it more than we could have imagined, but I wish we’d spent more time getting to know the real summer personality here. Would we have moved here? Absolutely. Would we have structured the girls’ summer differently so they could be more in-the-mix? Without a doubt.

Now we know but, at the same time, I can see how a town’s summer personality can make or break these critical months. Fortunately, our oldest is still young and loves day camp—so much that I suspect she doesn’t realize everyone isn’t hopping on a camp bus in the morning. Next year, though, is a different story. But next summer, we’ll be prepared.



Image: Pixabay

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