camp

The Kids Go to Overnight Camp & Mom Freaks Out

Midnight, and the moonlight painted a white stripe across the bottom of the bed. It was a quiet summer night.

It was only if you listened closely that you could hear that most tell-tale of all camp-related noises: the muffled sounds of someone trying to hide that they were crying.

My husband raised himself up on an elbow in bed. “Wait a second–are you CRYING?” he asked me.

Um, well, yeah.

“Seriously?”

Um, well, yeah.

It was the night before taking the boys to overnight camp for the first time. The bags were all packed. The boys were the healthy ratio of 85% excited -15% nervous, and were sleeping soundly.

I, on the other hand, was a different story.

After a day of playing Polly Positivity about camp (“You’re going to LOVE IT!” “Camp is THE BEST!” “I can’t wait to hear about all the fun you’re having!”), I had had enough. Truth time: I was a total, unmitigated mess. I was nervous about everything from meningitis (for which they got the preventative vaccine) to Lyme disease (a favorite summer neurosis of mine). I wondered if they would figure out that the egg crate I packed was a mattress protector, or if they would bring eggs back from breakfast and store them in the foam. I wondered if they would realize that one should brush one’s teeth without being told.

More than anything else, though, I was anticipating how much I would miss the boys.

I totally get it how parents who have their kids 24-7 for years might find part of the overnight camp idea appealing, from a sanity point of view: Weekends alone! No sitters! Movies in theaters!

But as a divorced parent, I’ve spent a lot of money and time fighting for the right to be with my boys–so now, to willfully send them away was an act of cognitive dissonance. I feel sick enough when they go away every other weekend: now three weeks without them?

Plus, hey, I will still have two little babies at home: in other words, I still need the sitter. No frolicking on a yacht just off Capri for me.

But the more I thought about it–and how at odds my 85% nervous – 15% excited ratio was with my sons’ more healthy one–I realized that it wasn’t about them as much as it was about me.

Reader, as a child, I hated camp with a fiery passion. If you looked up the word “homesick” in the dictionary, there would have been a picture of me next to it.

I was quickly marked as a loser at camp. My horrid haircut/braces/no bra combination would have marked me as a big dork from the beginning, but my behavior sealed the deal, both by The Bus Incident (which I memorialized in here) and the fact that I’d brought books to read for FUN. I spent much of my camp summers counting down the hours till nightfall when I could cry myself to sleep. Pathetic.

Yeah, I was that kid. And my parents made the right decision by not coming to get me and letting me tough it out for the duration.

But the thing that makes me stop crying now is the knowledge that my experience isn’t, and won’t, be my boys’ experience. My boys have each other–far better than going with a friend (although in a few ways, perhaps worse, since there will be no “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” for them). They are boys who are very different from me. They are going to have an amazing, amazing summer.

And when I drop them off later today, I promise I won’t cry until I get back into the car and drive away.


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Jordana HornJordana Horn is a contributing editor to Kveller. She is a journalist, lawyer, writer, mother of five (pregnant with her sixth), travel aficionado, and self-declared karaoke superstar. Before her life got too crazy, she was the New York correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. She has written for numerous publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Forward and Tablet. She has appeared as a 'parenting expert' on NBC's TODAY Show and FOX and Friends. She enjoys writing about herself in the third person and, one far-off day when everyone is in school, hopes to get back to work on her novel.

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