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?