I was a teenager hired to deliver a used car from a dealership in Maryland to a couple on Long Island. I arrived at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, rang the bell, and apparently woke up the husband after a night of partying.
“Our kids left for sleep-away camp yesterday,” he explained through bleary eyes.
As a 16-year-old girl, I was shocked to learn that parents celebrated when their progeny went away to camp. Was it possible my parents were happy when I went to camp? Could it be?
Now I am the parent and understand the glee of sending my kids away to camp. I remember the first time I sent away my eldest at age nine. People commented on how well we separated from each other. I figured I was either doing a great job of raising a self-assured and independent kid or I was a horrible mother and he couldn’t get away from me fast enough.
After a few days of him being gone, I remarked to my sister that I was experiencing an emotion that I was not familiar with.
“Is it possible you miss him?” she asked.
“I think I might,” I replied.
It was a fleeting but not unpleasant emotion. It surprised me because there were still three kids at home. I am happy that my children go to sleep-away camp. It is a chance for them to have a lot of fun, meet new people, try new activities, gain greater independence, and be away from all forms of “screens” for a month.
I am old fashioned about my kids going to camp. I resent the implied expectation that I am supposed to view the online pictures that are now posted each night by the camps. Instead, I enjoy receiving the occasional letters and seeing them at the end of the session when I can exclaim, “Look how tall you’ve gotten!” I am grateful that I can give them this camp experience. But that’s what it is – their experience, not mine. I had my own camp times and have great memories. I don’t feel the need to relive it through my children.
I choose not to spend every night my child is gone scrolling through hundreds of pictures just to catch a glimpse of my precious child. The camp will only show happy children – they will never show a picture of a child weeping in the corner of the room. If there is a problem with my child, I will find out about it from a phone call or a letter. Otherwise, I assume my child is having a fantastic time.
I think it’s a shame that kids have to be “on” and have their pictures taken incessantly, although they are used to it I suppose with all the social media. It is the norm for them. The only mugging for the camera we did at camp was for our friend’s instamatic camera and the pictures wouldn’t get developed until after we all got home from camp. But now I sound like an old lady.
What’s next? Watching your kid while he’s away at college? Oh right, that’s called Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.