I admit it. I broke the cardinal rule of sleepaway camp parenting: Thou shalt not nag from afar.
Why go to sleepaway camp if not for relief from your parents’ expectations? There’s a pact involved, and my kids are in on it: They get freedom. I get a break. They know—how could they not?—that we all look forward to the change in routine that comes each summer when they are away. Which is why my 11-year-old daughter wrote me this letter:
“Mom, I’m starting to get worried about you. You need to stop refreshing and start refreshing… differently. Your life does should not revolve around me! Why, why, why, why would you call camp to tell them that I’m not wearing glasses? The yoetzet [advisor] pulled me out of sha’at menuchah [rest hour] so that she could take a picture of me to show you that I’m wearing my glasses. It was kind of insane. Anyways, just…Don’t worry about me so much. I’m ok. You need to have fun too. Love, R”
People who know me know I’m no hoverer. My kids go to sleepaway camp for seven weeks, which, I’m told, is a loooong time. A coworker said to me: “Wow. I couldn’t be away from my daughter for that long. I’d miss her too much.”
Nah, I don’t miss them. I mean, of course I do. But that’s what camp is for. It makes Visiting Day all the sweeter; those reunion hugs all the tighter. Kids can actually live for a day or a week (or seven!) without their parents knowing all the nitty gritty details.
It’s not easy, these days, to avoid the details, though. When I went to camp in the ‘80s, there were no websites with daily uploads of hundreds of camper photos. I suppose my parents just had to hope my siblings and I were OK and having fun. (Or maybe, cocktails in hand, they didn’t think at all about what we kids were up to!)
But now, the photos are there, and so we look. We open the website, and if the pictures aren’t there yet, we hit refresh, and then refresh again. We look and we look, hoping to find our kid. Even if we don’t want to look, we feel like we have to. What if we miss a photo?
We parse the pictures for meaning: Why is she standing to the side? Why does her smile look unenthusiastic? Why is she wearing that? Why is she missing from that group shot? Why isn’t she wearing her glasses? Why? Why? Why? Why?
I admit it: I broke the pact. Well, I got schooled. Even while she’s away for the summer, my kid is still teaching me things. Plus, she’s pretty darn hilarious.