My son is about to leave for his fourth summer at overnight camp. His first year, I was obsessed with making sure he was okay. My phone displayed his local weather and I ran to the mailbox daily, then eagerly scoured the camp photos posted each night. I was Sherlock Holmes, determined to find clues to his happiness. Is that a smile on his blurry face in the background?
I worried. Did he have enough sunscreen? Was he warm enough? Why is he wearing the same shorts three days in a row—didn’t I pack enough?
I thought his entire experience hinged on my preparation. What I discovered in those photos is that it doesn’t matter so much what you pack; once kids are at camp, it’s a free-for-all.
In those pictures, I saw some boys in sweatshirts while others were bare-chested. There were shorts and pants, boots and flip-flops, and one kid decked in fishing gear—all on the same day. My son was laughing with his arm around a boy I didn’t know, wearing a shirt that wasn’t his. Youths at camp are mother-free children running around in whatever strikes their fancy; they’re kids being managed by other, older, kids. I wondered about the little savage that would be returned to me at summer’s end.
Unlike that first year when I said goodbye at the bus then sat in my car and cried, now I know exactly what to expect. I’ve learned a few things.
Other True Stories
I asked some fellow moms about things their kids brought home from camp and they shared the following funny anecdotes.
- Linda’s son came back from sleep-away camp with “a crop of zits from not washing his face.”
- Wendy tells the following story: “When my uncle was a boy, his mom packed his trunk with all of his clothes perfectly folded and packed. When he returned EIGHT WEEKS LATER, nothing had ever been unpacked. It was all exactly the way she’d placed it. He’d worn the same clothes the entire time.”
- Christine herself went to sleep-away camp for many years, and she came home with her “first kiss and first boyfriend.”
- Allison found a surprise in her daughter’s camp duffel— “42 unopened letters!”
Written by Pamela Rothbard for Make It Better.
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