We packed their bags together. We(okay, mostly I) carefully put shirts and shorts together in tight rolls as outfits….enough for six days. We put clean underwear and socks in one tidy compartment, and packed four pairs of long pants to wear during horseback riding. I told them that they would most likely want to change into shorts or something after riding as they would be stinky, and that I packed some extra shirts too, just in case.
I also bought them shower shoes for the communal showers at the camp. I filled shampoo and soap bottles so they had enough for a shower a day…but yet I still fretted that they wouldn’t have enough soap. I reminded them to shower each day, and brush their teeth. I packed the requested (1) beach towel and (1) bath towel and really tried to figure out how I could send them each for a few more towels – because how could two towels really be enough for a whole week?
Their bags were heavy as they each packed about six books each, and journals and pens and note-cards for writing about their days and to write home. They both love to read and I think I imagined each of them using their few hours of free-time each day leaning against trees and getting lost in a book…just like at home.
The bus ride up to camp was three hours long, so I assumed they would need a snack. I packed granola bars and crackers, a little candy snack, and some fun little games to keep them occupied.
I guess in my crazy mom head I assumed they were going to fashion camp, where each camper would have a large closet where they could hang-up their large wardrobe of clothes, feel the need to shower daily(just like at home), and they would have unlimited leisure time in which to curl-up with a book. Maybe I also thought they would be alone. Especially on the bus. And the camp would not feed them.
I was clueless and should evidently not be allowed to send my kids off to sleep-away camp again as I think I’m actually ‘That Mom’ that packs embarrassing things in their luggage and sends them too much mail.
In fact they liked being away from me so much that the first thing both of them said to me at pick-up was “Mom, can we go for 2-3 weeks next year?”
So for those parents who have never sent their kids away to camp – here are a few pointers for you to make their camp preparations a little bit easier.
1. They will not shower. Sure, they seem like clean beings at home. They shower daily, wash their faces and brush their teeth..but until their camp counselors actually physically force them into the shower…they will not shower. So don’t waste your time packing all the fancy toiletries and soap and stuff..just assume a few good swims in the lake will suffice.
2. They will not change clothes. Ever. Like you know that outfit they are wearing when you drop them off? That’s what they will be wearing when you pick them up. Yes, even those kids who like to change their clothing 85 times when you are at home – they will also wear the same clothing for seven days straight.
3. They will not use the plastic laundry bag that you included in their suitcase for their dirty clothing and wet suits and towels. They will throw that wet towel right into their suitcase, and pile in onto ALL of their clean clothing and it will stink to high heaven. In fact it will stink so much that half way home you have to stop and tie the suitcase onto your car’s roof because you swear something died in there.
4. They will not read or journal or write notes home. Not because they don’t like to do those things, but because they are busy and making new friends. Don’t get mad because you never heard from them…because they don’t need that shit. Just be glad they were too busy to miss you.
Which brings me to #5…
5. Chances are that your kids won’t miss you. Oh sure, they still love you and want to live with you and all and don’t want to leave you forever….yet, but Summer camp provides so much to do – new experiences, new friends, new fun, and is busy and awesome and seriously so fabulous, that they don’t have time to miss you. So don’t be sad if your 10 year old – instead of running up to you and giving you a big hug when she first sees you at pick-up – just throws her sweatshirt at you and says “hold this” while she continues to go off and hang-out with her new friends. She’ll eventually come around and give her baby sister a hug…right before she tells you that she needs to come to camp for much, much longer next Summer.
So next Summer, when I pack their bags again for camp, and this time for 2-3 weeks, I’m pretty sure a small backpack with two changes of clothing and a toothbrush will suffice…along with my mother-heart during this letting go process that just gets bigger and bigger each year.
But that’s okay, clean or not, I’m so damn proud of my kids.