Although I was born in the US, I grew up in Chile. Summers were spent at the beach, either at a house my family owned in the coastal town of Con-Con or at a hotel in the Southern town of Pucón. Sometimes we came to Miami for a month. I loved it.
So I never went to summer camp. Now I am back in the USA and raising two children that embrace two cultures, just like I did. What’s interesting is how being bicultural affects your perception of things like summer camp.
Many of my friends are sending their children to sleepaway camps, and I wonder whether in the future I’ll want to send my own kids away for weeks. I still struggle with sleepovers and I was raised in a Latin American country where you live at home with your parents while you attend college during the day. I´m in no rush for my children to leave the nest, I guess.
To be honest, I don’t think going away to summer camp is a necessity. And since my older son isn’t too crazy about the idea either, for now we are happy sending my 6 and 9 year-olds to day camp.
My children’s personalities are very different and I can see how my youngest will probably be begging in a few years to go away to camp. There are so many conversations I will need to have with my daughter before we consider it, even if we can afford it when the time comes.
Now I just learned of all the rituals taking place before teens even leave for summer camp, according to a New York Times article. Waxing, facials, and hair-straightening treatments seem to be more and more common. The article says even boys are getting eyebrow waxes to get rid of their “unibrow”.
In South America, it is quite common for teens to start waxing their legs as early as 11 or 12, so it really doesn’t surprise me that girls want to get rid of excess hair before bunking up with strangers. Given that acne will destroy the self-esteem of anybody that suffers it (even adults), I don’t object to facials that will help minimize it. And living in tropical weather all year long has made me realize how many women become miserable with a bad hair day, so I should be okay with the idea of a 12 year old getting a keratin treatment to avoid kinky, frizzy hair while away from home.
Then why is something bothering me so much about this article? Why am I concerned if I am all about people feeling better? Is it because how costly these beauty treatments are? Or is it because I feel kids are more and more pressured to grow up too fast? Both issues are a factor, but there’s something else.
Deep down I feel children and teens nowadays feel more pressure to look a certain way. And parents seem to want to avoid anything that might make their children feel singled out or different or unattractive. We tend to believe that if we get rid of any potential imperfection, we might protect them more against teasing or even bullying. It makes me question whether parents really are taking their children to get waxed, primped and ready for camp because they asked them for it or it was tied in to the parent’s own insecurities and fears.
We need to remember there’s more to beauty than just a physical component. There has to be substance and confidence. Neither can be bought with a beauty treatment, even if they can be boosted by it. I hope that just like time and money are spent on getting kids to look and feel good before they take off for camp, their parents spend the same or more amount of effort in actually reinforcing their self-esteem with positive attention and values.
Self-esteem needs to be built upon a solid foundation and physical appearance by itself, although extremely important in today’s society, does not provide it. So in the meantime, before my daughter considers going away to summer camp, I’ll try to focus on making her feel valued for who she is instead of how she looks.
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