My kids are coming home from camp, and I’m suddenly worried–worried about so many things: Did they have fun? Did they make new friends? The real ones that last a lifetime or at least until next summer? Did they eat too much junk at camp? Did they get enough exercise? How will they transition to home and family-life?Are we going to have the same old battles over screens? Will my daughter flip out when she gets off the bus, and we tell her she has to get in the car and back on the road to pick up her brother?
Of course, all signs indicate they had an amazing time at camp. The letters and emails (the latter from computer camp,) although few and far between, were glowing. They tell the story of kids having so much fun that they don’t want to spend time writing letters home, although, I wouldn’t have complained if they wrote one more letter.
The pictures show smiling kids playing games and participating in activities that would be nearly impossible to replicate at home (Neighborhood Color Wars, anyone?!) But that raises another worry: Will they be bored at home? Most definitely. That’s why we send them to camp. Like so many other Jewish parents, we shipped our kids off to camp so they could experience independence, make new friends, develop a new skill, learn about themselves, and so much more. There’s very little room for boredom at camp. However, isn’t there some benefit to dealing with boredom? Here comes that life lesson.
Personally, I have my own concerns. Did I take full advantage of the time they were gone? I think so. I cleaned their rooms (Why do they save everything—and can we ban all party favors?). I connected with friends over long walks and lunch, took care of all my doctors, appointments, got my hair colored, and even had time for retail-therapy.
The highlight of all this was a vacation with my husband. We enjoyed the great outdoors at our own pace with no one complaining that they were too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, tired or had to go to the bathroom. It was beyond lovely. Vacationing while the kids are at camp takes relaxation to a new level. I didn’t have to plan their days while I was enjoying mine. There was no need to leave a 10-page instruction manual with the grandparents with all the details on everyone’s schedule, medicines, meals, etc. The kids were entirely in someone else’s hands. There was nothing I could do for them.
Now they are coming home, and I’m worried about all the things I have to do for them. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the list of reasons why we send them to camp. First and foremost: independence. I know they took care of themselves for the weeks they were away from home.
Surely, I should expect them to bring home some of that independence, right? While I can provide a loving hug, the warmth of home, and a stocked fridge, I can’t mask the challenges of adjusting to life back in the family fold. They have to deal with some of that themselves.
That brings us to another reason we send them to camp: the opportunity to learn about handling transition. We managed the transition from school to camp with lots of patience, a “to-do” list for packing and a little extra wine for Mom. We got through it. And we will get through the re-entry too. They will have their transition and I will have mine—I just need to make sure the wine is chilled.