When the kids are away at camp, parents plan to play

By Petula Dvorak
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

See the woman at the bar? The one doing body shots? Fortyish?

PTA secretary, car-pool mom, soccer coach.

Or the guy who just muscled his way to the edge of the stage and is doing an out-of-control air-guitar riff with the band? Gray at the temples?

Class dad, household dishwasher, science project overseer.

Or get a load of the couple at Minibar, a D.C. temple of creative cuisine, feeding each other sea urchin ceviche with hibiscus and groping like they're on a first date. Geez, get a room.

Look out Washington, it's summer. The kids are away, and the parents are out to play.

"Oh, we have parents who go to the Dominican Republic, Hawaii; some really have a good time," said Alina Ackenbom, one of the directors at Camp Friendship in Palmyra, Va. "There's one set of parents we can't get hold of now at all because they're on an African safari."

Wasn't it just a couple of years ago that the big parenting story was about "helicopter parents," the kind who hovered over their children 24-7? Overprotective control freaks who -- if they could bear to send their mini-me away to camp -- insisted that webcams be installed in every cabin and on every pine tree, so they could remotely monitor little Emily's lanyard making?

"Yes, some of these parents still have a hard time letting go, especially if they're first-time campers," said Lauran Walsh, office manager at North Bay Camp in Maryland. "Some of the calls I got, even today, they want to talk to the kids, they want to ask how they're doing. For some, it's hard."

But plenty of North Bay veterans "drop them off and can't get out of here fast enough," Walsh told me.

The pendulum may be swinging back a bit, thank goodness. Maybe we're not "Mad Men" ready to have our little Sally mix daddy's drink, but it's about time that more parents learn to live it up a bit more.

I got wind of this healthier approach to parenting just a couple of months ago, when my stable of mommy friends began posting some outrageous Facebook status updates and photos. It was like college again! Concerts, bar scenes, romantic sailing trips, frolics on the beach. What was going on?

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