Jul 22 2013
Many, many people posted a link on Facebook to a Huffington Post Parents blogpost entitled, “Open Letter to My Daughter, the Camper.” In the piece, which is certainly nothing if not loving and fun, the father writing gives advice to his first-time overnight camper daughter. He tells her the proper way to roast a marshmallow, to try new things, to be herself and–repeatedly–to have fun.
This blogpost was a lot like a marshmallow in many ways–sweet and delicious, if ultimately insubstantial. I really don’t mean to come down like a wet blanket over the parade. But my boys are leaving for three weeks in a few days, and I find that I’m thinking about this a lot: what are my hopes for them? And what should their hopes be for themselves?
It’s the longest amount of time my boys have ever been away from home–and that’s saying a lot. I divorced their dad when they were toddlers and the boys have done the back-and-forth divorce vacation tango for more years than they haven’t. Moreover, it’s the first time they’ve ever been away without at least one parent within yelling range. That’s a big, big deal–both for me and for them. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 11 2013
Summer vacation is upon us.
All over Facebook I see statuses of parents dealing with school being out. Grateful posts about not having to pack lunches quickly turn into posts about the hassles of shlepping kids to baseball practice or kids being underfoot saying, “I’m bored” 600 times a day and in between happy vacation photos and day trips and amusements parks.
In other words, the stuff of life. Or at least the stuff of life when you are a parent.
As the parent of a special needs child, I recognize these irritations but honestly, I also do my share of eye rolling when I read stuff like this. It’s tough not to shake my head when some parents’ biggest problems are that they cannot decide how many pairs of flowered underpants their kids need to pack to go to Jewish sleep-away camp for two weeks. It sometimes makes me cringe when I read stuff like this, not just because I think of friends who struggle financially and aren’t in the position to be able to pay to send their child to be cared for by others for two weeks. Or those, like me, whose kids just can’t participate in things like summer camp, because their needs are so specialized and they just need more attention and care than they can get in most summer programs. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 3 2013
In the old days, “independence” was something that happened to kids naturally. Children were swept into adulthood by responsibility–you grow up fast when you are responsible for the farm that gives your family food–or the tides of history. A kid has no choice, after all, but to grow up fast when their parents sent them to escape Russian Cossacks on a ship bound for America. They had no choice but to grow up fast when they were separated from parents by war, sometimes forever.
These days, in our coddled existences, we simulate circumstances of independence-generating separation by sending our children to overnight camp. These are supervised places chock full to the brim of fun where our children can, for a few weeks, live their lives without us parents around. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 17 2013
First they leave your body, then they leave your breast, then your bed.
The next thing you know they’re on a bus to sleep-away camp.
Adina Soclof’s recent piece about sending her child off to camp resonated with me.
Only I will be sending my grandsons off to camp. Well, actually, their parents will be.
I just can’t believe it. I vividly remember standing at the bus stop sending their mom, my oldest child, off to camp. I didn’t feel teary but I felt disoriented, almost confused. Why weren’t I and my husband going off to camp? It really seemed like we should have been getting on that bus. We, who met at sleep-away camp when I was 16-years-old, he 17. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 11 2013
When my second son was 8 years old, he decided to that he wanted to go to camp. My husband and I were all for it. We went to different camps but we both loved, loved it. Did I mention loved? We both started our camper careers young, me at age 8 him at age 10.
We chose a camp, my husband’s alma mater, made the necessary arrangements early in the year, and talked about how great an experience it would be for him. We regaled him with tales of our camp adventures, boating, color wars, girl boy singalons, trips to town, hikes, camp outs, and ghost stories. Even my mother-in-law got in on the action; she told him about unpacking his father’s trunk when he got home and finding the new packages of underwear that she had sent unopened. Gross…but so campy… Read the rest of this entry →
May 20 2013
Once, when my husband and I managed to escape for some grown up time after leaving our three kids with my parents, my husband realized that he’d left his cell phone at home. We decided not to go back for it since, as my husband noted, “If an emergency comes up that your dad can’t handle, then we’re %^&* out of luck, anyway.” (My father, as I’ve written earlier, has a home remedy for every occasion.) Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 11 2013
There are two kinds of people in the world: Camp People, and Non-Camp People.
In his newest book, The Secrets of Happy Families, author Bruce Feiler definitely comes across as a Camp Person.
In the pages of The Secrets of Happy Families, Feiler approaches his research and fieldwork with all the optimism and resourcefulness of a senior counselor. He reaches out to experts in various fields in a Freakonomics-esque attempt to debunk conventional wisdom about what makes a functional family, and challenge some widely held beliefs about mundane practices such as the family meal, sex talks, conflict resolution, and allowance, while sharing his candid personal parenting victories and foibles and using lots of Camp People tactics throughout. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 12 2013
Not a fan of empty rooms.
Well, it’s done: the boys are going to Jewish sleepaway camp this summer. It’s a few months away, but already, I’m a little teary. I’m pretty sure I will miss them more than they will miss me.
It’s not because I am unmissable. I mean, look at me: I am a bundle of fun. While I am sure the boys will relish not brushing their hair or teeth for three weeks, perhaps every so often they will think of me fondly in passing. Like when they look down at the crap around their bunk and think, “Boy, look at my crumpled up clothes–no one can fold them like Mom,” or “Wow, Mom would NEVER let us leave the room like this at home.” And they will certainly think of me for at least five seconds when they find the pre-addressed and stamped postcards home at the bottom of their luggage at the end of the summer and say, “Oops.” Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 23 2012
The sign-off at the bottom of my letter was a familiar one:
Miss you! xxoo
It was how I finished every bunk note I sent to my two sons, Noah, 14, and Chase, 12, at sleep away camp this summer. But when I went to press SEND on the last letter of the year, a nagging feeling came over me as I realized that this was just the fourth missive I had written to them in as many weeks. And it had been days since I had scoured the camp website to catch a photo of my precious punims. Suddenly the unthinkable reality was all too clear. I was lying. I did not, in fact, miss my children. At all.
What kind of Jewish mother am I??? Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 20 2012
So, remember when I said that this summer my kids were doing… nothing?
I tried to stick to the plan, I really did. But then, I found out about this free dance camp for my 8-year-old son. (And if there is one thing I love more than making life easy for myself it’s things that are free .
And then, thanks to the articles I’ve written here on Kveller about my Soviet Jewish background, I was contacted by the Marks JCH of Bensonhurst asking if I might be interested in sending my oldest to Camp B’Yachad, a 12-day overnight program happening this August 22 to September 2, specifically for teens from Russian-Jewish families. Read the rest of this entry →