A Better Summer Camp Packing List – Kveller
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A Better Summer Camp Packing List

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PS camp collage

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My 8-year-old is going to Jewish sleepaway camp for the first time later this summer. She’ll be there for five days, and I’ve already spent twice that amount of time worrying about what she’s going to pack.

Sure, I have a thorough packing list provided by the camp. But the packing list never tells the whole story — at least it didn’t when I was a camper. “1 water bottle” was hardly helpful. I needed more details, like “1 water bottle. Definitely Nalgene. Don’t forget to add at least three stickers, one of which should be the Dave Matthews fire dancer. Required accessory: a carabiner.”

Without those details, I showed up to camp with the first water bottle my mom found at Walmart, wondering how everyone else knew to a) buy a Nalgene and b) clip it to their backpacks. Something about the Nalgene bouncing lazily against my cabinmates’ hips as they walked from shiur to pottery felt like a metaphor for how easily they moved through the world, while I desperately struggled to keep up.

Similarly, “two pairs of sneakers” was a nice packing list item, but you know what would have been more helpful? “Two pairs of sneakers. We know last year everyone was wearing the off-white Adidas with the green stripes, but this year everyone has inexplicably moved on to gray New Balances. Also, everyone will be customizing their shoes with neon shoelaces.”

“A hat.” Helpful! Protects your face from the sun. But were we doing bucket hats that year? Baseball caps? And if so, was the bill straight or slightly bent and beat up?

Of course none of this actually matters. Of course I just want my daughter to have a good time, to know that things are just things, and anyone who makes her feel differently isn’t worth having in her life. But as I make my way down the packing list, adding Soffe shorts to my Amazon cart, I can’t help but remember arriving at camp feeling like I missed some kind of memo. If I can buy my daughter a specific brand of water bottle that might make entering a foreign place with people she doesn’t know .000001% easier, I will do it. I am her mom, after all.

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