Like most mothers after school ended, I was in a conversation with a mother who has a daughter the same age as my own. She asked what my daughter was doing for the summer and I mentioned that she was going to overnight camp. “For how long?” she asked.
“For a month,” I answered.
This woman’s mouth dropped as if I just said, “I hate my daughter. I also have genital herpes.” (Which I don’t.) She then added that she could never send her 9-year-old to overnight camp for two reasons and I’m not sure which reason was more ridiculous. The first reason was that her daughter didn’t know how to shower on her own yet, so how could she possibly send her to overnight camp? The second reason was, “I’m not ready for her to be gone that long from me.”
Uh? I wanted to say, “Well, you may not be ready, but she probably is.” In fact, I wanted to say, “She probably would really enjoy some time away from you if you think she still needs help bathing.”
But I bit my tongue. Truthfully, I don’t give a shit if you send your kid to overnight camp or not, but I do care about pathetic reasons behind not sending your kid to overnight camp (Money is a good reason to NOT send your kids to camp. She doesn’t know how to shower is not.)
When my daughter first went away to overnight camp, two years ago, I too was worried about her showering and changing her clothes. Guess what? She came back off the bus wearing the exact same outfit she wore on the bus when she left for camp, her hair was a mess as if she hadn’t once brushed it, and I highly doubt she showered more than once every two weeks. I couldn’t even smell her when she hugged me. When she did, I think I pulled away and I said something like, “My god. I missed you. But you smell like garbage!”
We went home and I immediately put her in the shower. Her feet were so black that the water turned black as well. Oh well. I suppose one of the beauty of overnight camp is that you don’t have your mother screaming, “You have to take a shower!”
As for, “I’m not ready for my daughter to be gone that long from me!” Well, neither was/am I! I miss her terribly when she’s gone. But, I hate to tell you this parents who “aren’t ready,” but your children probably are. I realize that not all kids love overnight camp, but what they learn at overnight camp is priceless.
My daughter, after her second year at overnight camp, learned to shower on her own! Camp is the BEST place for kids to learn to shower on their own, because they have other kids to help them, and they can see other kids can do it, and they are super proud when they can do it too. My daughter also started eating foods that she would never eat at home, because other kids were eating it (although I must say I was a little taken aback when she came back and said her favorite food was now “ham,” since we are Jewish and all).
But at least she came back liking other foods than pasta with butter. When my child first attended overnight camp, she was very shy. Boy was I surprised when she got off the bus after a month and had a totally different personality. She was outgoing and funny and confident. I LOVED the new her. Camp did that to her.
I know a lot of parents who can’t wait to get rid of their children for a month (sometimes two months) so they don’t have to entertain or drive their kids all the time and drink mid-afternoon. But, let’s be honest. I annoy my daughter when she’s on the swing set in my backyard yelling, “Be careful! Don’t hurt yourself!” I hate always being so worried about her. While she’s at camp, I actually don’t worry at all. I know she’s in good hands. Let the counselors worry about her jumping off large rocks or waterskiing. Let them worry and stress about her getting to bed. At camp, “No news is good news,” and I haven’t heard anything.
So, again, I’m not worried. My daughter had a tough year at school and as I told her, “Camp is NOT school. You are supposed to have FUN. That’s all! FUN!” Children need fun and camp is fun. I’d love to say my daughter doesn’t get sick of spending all her time with me, but she’s growing up. She’d rather be around friends, acting silly, wearing whatever the hell what she wants, and meeting new friends that will last a lifetime (I still have friends from overnight camp from when I was nine!)
I know she has fun at camp because last year she sent me a postcard that said, “I have to write this to you. I’m having so much fun. Bye!” At first, I was hurt. But then I realized she was having so much fun that she didn’t even want to write a postcard and that made me happy. So, yes, you may not be ready and will miss your child, but trust me, your child will be too busy to miss you. Overnight camp is not about you. It’s about children and the memories they will make (like the first time I got felt up…that was much, much later).
And when they get home, trust me, you WILL miss your time without them.