For the first time ever, both of my children, ages 12 and 8, were together at overnight camp. My son Max attended for three and a half weeks, while Hannah is spending seven glorious weeks away from home.
I was a big camp person myself, and thankfully, it seems my kids are now too. But seeing things from the parent side is a lot different than the kid side. While they were off learning new things, catching their first fish, hiking in the mountains, and jumping on water trampolines, here’s a list of the new experiences I had as an adult with disposable income and no small children around.
1. I got up when I wanted, left for work when I wanted, and left for home when I wanted. After so many years of always watching the clock, whether it’s for the school bus or to make it home before the daycare late fees kick in, it was a true relief to just be able to walk out the door when I was ready, at both ends of the work day.
2. I cleaned the house, and the house stayed clean.We still ate meals at home, and still had laundry to do, but in general, the messes stayed fairly contained. No stray socks on the couch, no snack bowls on the coffee table, and no nagging anyone about cleaning up after themselves.
3. I saw a movie on its opening weekend. Yes, I did my feminist duty and saw the new “Ghostbusters”in the theater on opening weekend. A non-animated movie was a particular thrill, even if I could have taken the kids with us had they been at home.
4. We painted my son’s bedroom.Over the last year, we put a new addition on our home, but Max’s room didn’t change at all. We’d promised to paint it sometime last fall, but life kept getting in the way. So we set aside one entire weekend to devote to the project, and I’m fairly certain he’s the only kid on the block with a green bedroom ceiling.
5. We hosted an adults-only Shabbat dinner. With so many of our friends also sending their kids to camp, we decided to get together on our own. Friends contributed wine, challah, salad, and dessert while my husband made chicken and stuffed peppers. We blessed for our children from afar, lifting our hands in the general direction of where our children were in New Hampshire.
Of course, I had a lot of other things I expected to get started on while the kids were gone too. But three and a half weeks goes quickly, faster than you’d think. I wanted to get started on the photo montage for Hannah’s upcoming bat mitzvah, but unless downloading photos from the camp website counts, well, I didn’t make any real progress there. I thought I’d finally get a Hulu subscription and watch all “The Mindy Project” episodes I’ve missed, but I had less time for binge watching than I’d imagined. I thought I’d write some every day, but this is the first thing I’ve written at all.
But I hadn’t planned for extra-long, far-ranging conversations with my husband as national and international events unfolded. I hadn’t planned to attend an outdoor concert, or to babysit for a friend’s little ones. I hadn’t planned to linger over dinner so often.
Which lead to the biggest discovery of all: Life is pretty sweet when it’s not so closely planned. That’s harder to achieve during the school year, when my multi-colored Google calendar is my constant companion. But it is what summer is supposed to be about.
Turns out I learned something from new experiences this summer, too.