At Dawn They Sleep: Sending Kids to Overnight Camp

Pay registration. Order labels. Buy clothes. Buy snacks. Panic. This is the general guide to preparing your child for overnight camp. If you’re like me and have sent a child away for the first time, you may be stuck on the last step. I went to sleep-away camp during a time without cell phones, no ipods, just a lot of interacting with the people around you. Mind you, that’s probably why I hated it so much. We were expected to go off and have a great summer and create memories and friendships without constant contact with our parents. Now before I take out my walking stick and wave it around shouting “in my day….,” I will just say that obviously times are different. But expectations are as well. We send our kids off to camp, in part to create those memories but more so, to assert a level of independence. They are in charge of their clothes, their hygiene. It’s pretty much as close to Survivor as a Jewish kid will ever get. But our panic and fears thwart and compromise that independence. Is he going to be ok? How will he know what to wear? What if he loses his socks? What if he doesn’t like the food they’re serving? What if if if if if…….

Enter visiting day. The camp’s answer to helicopter parenting. Instead of fielding calls all day long about the wellbeing of these kids, we’ll let the parents come see the kids themselves. But whom does visiting day really serve to benefit? My son has been gone a week now. Not one phone call from him. But everyday the camp posts pictures on Facebook and I’ve never seen my son so happy. There isn’t a single picture where he isn’t’ running around, dancing, hanging out with friends. Yet I have this insatiable desire to drive 14 hours to visit him in upstate New York to see him. Yes, you can say that not all kids do as well, and many kids genuinely miss their parents and count down the seconds until visiting day.

Clearly this isn’t the case for my child. And I couldn’t be happier.

Like a delicious piece of chocolate cake you save in the fridge for the end of the day, children don’t walk away from something unless they are certain it will be there when they get back. My son wanting to go to camp, wanting to leave his home for 4 weeks is him saying “ I feel safe and loved at home.” And as a single mom raising 4 kids in a single parent home, that is gold. He doesn’t need to see me for visiting day because he knows I’m always here.

Visiting day is purely for me and I fully recognize that. It’s me feeling I’m doing my due diligence as a parent – showing the world how much I love my son that I drove all this way to see him and took a #campselfie #missinghimalready. It’s me being plagued with guilt at my child being the loner without his parents there. Giving that his camp’s solution for kids who’s parents can’t make it is to take them to Six Flags, I’m pretty sure he’d beg me not to come. We have to challenge ourselves to view parenting successes in non traditional ways. Success is being able to send your child away to camp. Success is packing and labeling an entire wardrobe knowing, at best ¾ won’t return. Success is raising a child secure enough to walk away.


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