You don’t have to dress up your kids for camp and other parental ‘Learning Experiences’

We did not dress Sam up like this; school dressed him up like this for us. There is a difference.

Let me tell you a little story.

Towards the end of last summer, I was at the pool with the fam. There, I chit-chatted with a friend whose son was also in summer camp with Sam. She mentioned something about dressing him up for “Rock Star Day.”

Here is the following shameful conversation, which is forever seared into my memory:

Me: Wait. There was a “Rock Star Day?”

Friend: Yes.

Me: Really?

Friend: Yes.

Me: I had no idea.

Friend: It was dress up day a lot at camp.

Me (incredulous): They have dress up day? At camp?

Friend: Um….Yes.

Me: More than once?

Friend: Yes.

Me (heart sinking): Really?

Friend (seeing the panicked look on  my face): It’s okay. It wasn’t every week or anything.

She then swam away to tend to one of her kids.

About an hour later, the same friend came back. She patted me on the arm, made her face comically serious, and told me the truth:

“Dorothy. I lied. It was every week. Dress up day at camp was Every. Week.”



Every single dress up day just totally passed us by. Sam never said a word.

I never learned about dress up day at camp because camp sent the weekly “here is what you need to know” e-mail to Nat instead of me. This was problematic as Nat, in his words, “doesn’t really do e-mail.”

Me, screaming, about my husband’s reluctance to “read e-mail.”

But guess what? Although I was initially internally screaming about this missed opportunity, in about five minutes, I felt just fine.

Because no one even noticed! Not Sam, not the counselors, not the other parents. No one.

ANYWAY, this whole episode ties into a new thing I’m trying out with my brain which is attempting to turn straight-up mistakes into “learning experiences.” (This is a really good article on the idea.)


  • Spend $12K on getting your house painted a color you now hate? Now you know what colors you don’t like so you won’t make the same mistake again!
  • Spend $50 on ingredients for a recipe you then butcher? Now you know how to cook it the right way!
  • You give your son a Slushie to drink in the car, even though you know he will spill it everywhere, and then he spills it everywhere? (Actually, that is just kind of stupid.)

This is my “learning experience” from Sam’s camp “fiasco” last summer:

  1. Make sure all correspondence regarding anything about the kids comes to me. Until the end of time.
  2. It doesn’t really matter if your kid dresses up for camp or not

This summer, now that I get the camp emails about Dress Up Day (see No. 1, above), I instantly feel that same terrible panic about dress up day and I have to stop myself from immediately buying a thousand pipe cleaners and a bag of feathers off of

But after about a second or two, when I remember that no one cares, I then feel like this:



SAY IT WITH ME LADIES: They will never remember if you didn’t dress them up for camp.

Don’t create stress where there really isn’t any.

I am all for “Camp Spirit” or whatever it is these Dress Up Days are supposed to instill (besides terrible anxiety in working parents). And, sure, we like to participate when we remember. And if Sam asks to wear something, we’ll throw something together as a family. I’m not a monster or anything.

But going to Target at 8 p.m. to pick up a cowboy hat or whatever? No thank you.

As a parent, you have to pick your battles.

Dress Up Day at Camp isn’t one of them.

Trust me.

Btw: Did you know I have a newsletter? I do. It’s short and funny and has some recipe ideas as well as some links to interesting articles, etc. It’s like The Skimm but for busy, tired parents and women who don’t look a day over 35. I promise you’ll like it.

You can subscribe here. It comes out every Friday. 

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