My kids are so mad at me right now. The camp calendar arrived last week, and they have spent literally hours poring over its every detail–especially the three weeks I crossed out because they won’t be there.
“But Mom, Friday is Pajama Day! We can’t miss Pajama Day.”
“The bowling field trip! We won’t be there for the bowling field trip?!”
“Look! We’re making Oreo challah! But I’m still missing Pajama Day.”
The reason they’re missing those weeks is simple: They’re enrolled in Mommy Camp for two weeks and traveling during the other. I started doing Mommy Camp a few years ago, when they were both in preschool. I finagled it so that I had a week of alone time with each of my two kiddos and another two weeks of time together. We didn’t do anything mind-blowing—just hit bounce house places, paint-your-own-pottery shops, kids’ museums and our favorite lunch spots.
Last summer, though, I enrolled them in seven weeks of regular old camp, and it ended up being a wise move because after my husband, son and I picked up our daughter from her last day of kindergarten, they drove me straight to the airport. I had a flight to Florida to deal with my sick mom. She turned out to be sicker than I realized, and I was gone for 10 days and then made several return trips before ultimately moving my momm closer to where I live in Virginia at the end of last July.
Having the kids at the camp they loved offered a semblance of normalcy at a time that felt anything but normal. And it allowed me time to run around touring assisted living facilities, even though I would have preferred to have been watching my kids run through the fountains during a kid-friendly event at a nearby outdoor plaza. I didn’t realize what I had until I missed out on it.
When it came time to sign up for camp this summer, I decided that since I had so much separation last year from my now rising kindergartner and second-grader, we needed more togetherness. And so I opted to keep them home during the first and last weeks of camp. Mommy camp is back in session.
Funny enough, an article in the July 2 Washington Post is about how parents bend over backward, especially in the Washington, D.C., metro area where I live, to maximize their children’s camp experiences. In fact, there’s a woman who makes a living helping parents choose from hundreds of camps on robotics, drama, filmmaking, foreign languages and so on.
It makes my beloved Mommy Camp sound antiquated at best and child-endangering at worst. After all, how will my kids get/stay ahead of the curve without coding immersion or 35 hours of Shakespeare?
I don’t much care. They’re 7 and 4. I don’t want the picture in my mind’s eye of their childhoods to be the tops of their heads in my rearview mirror as I shuttle them around all summer.
Mommy Camp Session One ended June 30. We spent the week doing whatever the heck we wanted. We went to lunch with Daddy, visited the National Zoo, saw a $2 movie with a friend, checked out Port Discovery children’s museum in Baltimore, splashed in the pool, and ate ungodly amounts of ice cream.
The bottom line: We had a blast–together. We set our own agenda and did our own thing, a nice break from darting about from gymnastics and piano practice, play dates, and birthday parties. Instead of chasing the clock, we chased fireflies (and mosquitoes) at dusk. We slept past 9 a.m., read new books and shared new experiences–emphasis on shared. The kids soon backed off their complaints about missing out at Camp Gan Israel and instead focused on what they were getting at Mommy Camp.
Well, mostly. As we left on our final Mommy Camp adventure–mini golf–until August, my daughter said, “Mom, can you ask the rabbi if there will be another Pajama Day?”