This is a post from last year that I thought I’d put up again, as yesterday, my kids left again for summer camp. This year, despite still agreeing with everything I wrote here, I had a harder time saying goodbye to my kids, and was weepy much of the day. But photos of the kids having fun their first night were on the camp website this morning, so I’m feeling better…and spending a Sunday reading the paper instead of schlepping someone to soccer…so it’s allllll good!
Forget the child-free v. having kids debate: Sleepaway Camp gives me the best of both worlds.
I’ve always said that the difference between how I love my children, and how I love anyone else in the world is this: if a Mack Truck were careening down the highway headed for either of my kids, I would jump in front of it to save their lives without even thinking about it – no question. If a Mack truck were careening down the highway toward anyone else I love, I’d think. And I’d miss whoever it was. No question.
The recent Time Magazine article about the Child Free life has set off a big debate about having children. According to Time “The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the fertility rate declined 9%.” Today, around 1 in 5 American women never have kids. In the 1970’s, it was 1 in 10. And those couples? They are tired of being oppressed by the breeders. And they are loving life. Good for them.
Look, having kids in your life is stressful. You worry about them. They leave their clothes on the floor. You spend lots of time taking care of them instead of yourself. They track mud on the carpet after soccer practice. You spend money on them. They talk back. You’re no longer free to go wherever, whenever.
But then there’s that Mack truck thing. The love you feel for your children is like no other love. Watching your child experience everything for the first time is extraordinary: from their astonishment of discovering that a flower smells nice, to their thrill at that first bite of a cookie, to their pride at losing the training wheels and finding freedom on two wheels. Their triumphs are more important than your own, their failures more painful.
Having children lends a richness and fullness to your life like nothing else.
But still, there is that feeding them, clothing them, schlepping them stuff. And there are the teenaged years, when the soundtrack to your every move is a snort of derision.
That’s where sleep-away camp comes in.
Every summer, for seven weeks, my husband and I live the child free life. We read the paper. We go out to dinner, we see movies. We go to museums and no one complains. We try Ethiopian food and no one asks for chicken nuggets. I never once have to say: put your clothes in the hamper or clean up your room. There’s no schlepping, little cooking, hardly any laundry, and way more sex.
Meanwhile, the kids are having a blast. Color War. Swimming. Canoe trips. Hikes. Arts and Crafts, crummy camp food, late night talks in the bunks, friendships for a lifetime. They’re learning that they can live life without their parents, and still be OK. They’re making decisions, and gaining independence. They love camp.
But at the end of the seven weeks, I’m ready for them to come home…and so are they. I miss them. I miss those talks that only happen when the lights are out and I’m tucking them in. I miss their enthusiasm. I miss family dinners.
I like my freedom, but I love my kids.
I cannot imagine life without my kids — without our family. Is parenting hard? Sure. Everything worthwhile is. Is our family life perfect? No, but what is? I wouldn’t give up my family for anything. So let others live the child free life all the time. I’m happy with a child free summer, and a child-full rest of the year.