I never went away to summer camp, unless you count the weeks spent with my scout troop where my mother was the co-leader who always built the fires and made the coffee. In fact, not many of my friends ever went away to these infamous “sleep away” camps at a young age, so either I just grew up weird or the world is changing.
Conversely, now there are kids packing their things and parents nonchalantly dropping them off for a week without contact, without a single tear in their eye or a worry on their mind. You know, the exact opposite of myself.
Truthfully, I’m thrilled my kids have the opportunity to experience these great things. We are fortunate, I know, and so I can’t help but think about the evolution of a sleep-away camp without a smirk on my shaking head.
Six months before camp: Parents scurry and send messages and emails that a certain camp is opening their registration. Someone starts a rumor that “if you don’t sign up immediately, you’ll never get in.” Forms are printed and filled out hastily, and you nearly have to sell an organ to pay for tuition, but still, it’ll be worth it.
Two months before camp: A registration packet arrives with medical forms that need to be filled out in triplicate and require a physical and a doctor’s signature. Because you have nothing better to do. But you do it anyway because signing all of these waivers gets you thinking about all of the scenarios that you would never want to happen while your kid is gone. At least your kid is healthy. Times three.
One month before camp: A pack list arrives. You are stunned at the amount of suggested items that are listed, along with a few of them you have to search online because you’re not quite sure what they are. You then read that the camp recommends only one suitcase per camper. You go out and purchase the world’s largest duffle bag.
One week before camp: The nerves creep in, either for you or your kid. You both decide that if nothing else, personal strength and confidence will be a lesson learned.
Two days before camp: Those bizarre things on the pack list? You forgot to get them. Commence the second scurry of this ordeal.
Two hours before camp: Your kid has their enormous bag packed and even woke up early with anticipation. You prepare the favorite meal, wondering if their food will be edible.
Camp drop off: You triple check the luggage. You give a thousand hugs and tell them a million times to be careful, to have fun, and that you love them. They smile and wave and waltz off like it’s nothing, and you and your quivering chin slowly walk away, counting the days until they are back in your care, a better, stronger, lucky kid.
Originally written 6.21.15