Things Parents Say When Their Kids Come Home From Sleepaway Camp

French Woods 1979

Me at camp. Circa 1979.

Seven weeks.  That’s how long my kids were away at sleepaway camp.  If that sounds crazy to you, you either didn’t go to camp yourself, or you aren’t Jewish.  Jews do sleepaway.  Deal with it.

I don’t know how it started.  Maybe it was because when many of the camps began, at the start of the 20th Century, the city was hot and crowded and the suburbs and country clubs were restricted.  (Again, if you don’t know what that means, you’re either not from the East Coast, or you aren’t Jewish. Look it up.) But I think it was because Jews knew the secret: sleepaway is good for everybody.  The parents get a reminder of why they married each other in the first place. (Hint: it wasn’t so they could be dueling chauffeurs to their kids’ various after-school and weekend activities.) And the kids get to experience independence, try new things without their parents around, hang out with older kids and younger ones, try on a new persona, have fun with a minimum of judgement thrown their way.

Read Michael Thompson’s book Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Make a Child Grow if you don’t believe me.  I think the subtitle should have been: What Sleepaway Camp can give your Child that You Can’t.  But that’s just me. He loves camp. Loves what it does for kids.  He thinks it’s one of the best things a parent can offer their child: to just get out of the way. (And he’s not even Jewish.  Or if he is, he’s doing a mighty good impression of a gentile.)

I went to sleepaway camp.  I loved it.  At camp, I was popular.  At home…not so much.  I still feel close to my camp friends.  I miss my kids when they go, but they love it, too.  It’s not so bad back home either. A fraction of the laundry, the cooking, the fuss.  Time to read the paper.  To go to the gym. To just. do. nothing.  Do I miss them?  Yes.  Plenty. But not their attendant mess and bother.

And I’m not alone.  Here are some things I’ve actually heard people say about when the kids come home from camp:

1. Thanks God.  Now my husband won’t think I’m available for sex all the time.

2. I love them and everything, but they always need to eat.

3. Can’t they just come home for a weekend and then go back?

4. For the first time, I understand why people send their kids to boarding school.

5. I sent you to camp with 18 pairs of sock, sent six more, and you came home with how many?  None? How is that even possible?

6.  Why hasn’t your tube of toothpaste been opened?  You were at camp for six weeks.

7.  My son has been complaining that I don’t offer electives at home.

8. They should just make visiting day 45 minutes.  I don’t care if it’s an 8 hour drive. 45 minutes is plenty.

9. Two more days.  Two more days.  Two more days.

10. Wait, what do you mean you’re no longer available for sex all the time?


  1. DougG says

    This was the first time BOTH kids were at sleepaway camp for seven weeks. My thoughts–why couldn’t it be eight weeks? Or nine? 🙂 Seriously, it gave us a chance to paint two bedrooms and a hallway, and clean out years’ worth of accumulated crap (adult and child) that will go to the Salvation Army, to a stoop sale (Brooklyn version of garage sale or yard sale), or to the trash. And just when everything was clean and nice, here they come with four trunks worth of dirty laundry, unopened tennis ball cans, unused toothpaste, and a summer’s worth of arts and crafts projects, color war t-shirts, etc., that we now have to make room for. Oy. I need a vacation!

  2. says

    I went to that camp too, but in 81-84! And I can’t afford French Woods (or it’s successor Bucks Rock) for my kids, but they still go away for 3-6 weeks every summer starting when they’re 7. Good for them, good for me. How can I miss them if they’re always here?

  3. heysheila says

    I went to sleep away camp, but ours was only one week {I also went to cheer camp, but that’s another story}. Sierra Bible Camp was where I met my first boyfriend, ate my first crawdad, and learned how to use tampons. I’m sure if I we’re gone the whole summer I would have lost all my socks also.

    • says

      Oh yes! I forgot about that! The tampons. It’s the best place to learn about that. Because, seriously, do you really want to learn that from your mother? I had my first kiss at camp. First time I shaved my legs. Ah, the joys.

  4. afterthekidsleave says

    Definitely brings back memories of all those summers our daughter spent at camp! She leaves for college next week; now, the camp summers feel like they were our practice runs.

  5. says

    When I was a teenager and all my friends disappeared for the summer I asked why we weren’t Jewish. Now that I’m a parent and my friends’ kids disappear I might actually convert. Hilarious as always, you are. (Read that in your best Yoda voice.)

  6. says

    With both boys away at camp for a month, I realized my husband isn’t the slob I thought he was. Nor was he perennially distracted. The house was just tidy and calm, and rather pleasant. Although my husband signed off every letter to the boys with “please come home soon. Mom apparently only shops to feed you guys. I’m starving.”

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