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Grandparents Visiting Day: The New Summer Camp Normal?

Grandparents Visiting Day: The New Summer Camp Normal?

My 8-year-old niece was recently at an overnight camp for the first time. There is a parents visiting day midway through the summer. Makes sense. But the weekends before and after parents visiting day are – get this – grandparents visiting day. Huh? TWO visiting days for grandparents and ONE for parents? It seemed odd to me, until I realized it’s really just a marketing ploy, because these camps are super expensive and the people running them know that more often than not, it’s grandma and grandpa who are underwriting this fabulous experience.

Grandma hugging granddaughterIt may be understandable, but it also strikes me as a bit cruel to some kids. As more parents continue to have their children when they’re older, more and more kids will grow up without any living grandparents, or with grandparents who aren’t as physically capable. My own children have only one living grandparent and their Nana has nine grandchildren. Is she supposed to plan her entire summer around outings to drink bug juice and swim in scummy muddy lakes?

And what happens when Grandpa, who was all prepared to visit, tennis racket in hand, camp spirit in spades, ends up in the hospital because his arthritis medication complicated a small infection into a life threatening situation – as happened with my sister’s father-in-law. My sister was anxious as a mother hen thinking of the disappointment her first-time camper would be facing when Grandpa and Grandma didn’t show up. Sure it could happen on parents visiting day too, but let’s be honest. It’s far more likely that medical events will keep a grandparent from meeting planned commitments.

I love the idea of celebrating the grandparent-grandchild relationship. It’s important and special and deserves to be nurtured when possible and appropriate. But I think we’ve reached a point in society when it might make sense to consider the diversity of families and family arrangements. A “Special Visitors Day,” for instance, would allow divorced parents to visit on separate weekends if that’s what works best for their family, or an aunt or uncle, or good family friend, adult siblings, or anyone else the parents designate, including, yes, grandparents, to visit, share time with the camper, and make everyone feel good.

Of course, we could also recognize that part of the experience of sleepover camp is to separate from all that and settle on one visiting day period.

Editor’s Note: We’re discussing all-things grandparenting on The Family Room Blog this week! Read more posts about grandparents and don’t forget to celebrate Grandparents Day with the special grandmothers and grandfathers in your life on Sunday, September 7.

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