Sleep-away camp. Growing up on Long Island, I knew many kids who spent their summers living in a rustic cabin with a group of other kids (many also from Long Island, or at least New York or New Jersey), having what I imagined was the time of their lives. No parents, no rules. Just lots of junk food, late nights and fun. Kids as young as eight years old packed trunks filled with Sharpie-labeled clothing and stuffed animals and headed off for as many as eight, freedom-filled weeks.
I did not go to sleep-away camp. As a kid, I thought the kids who did go were so lucky. I thought their parents were so cool.
Then, as a young mom, I thought those same parents were actually foolish and selfish. Send your kids away for the entire summer? Why would you want to do that?
Fast forward ten+ years … Now, as a more mature parent (read: older), I realize that I was too quick to judge. Eight kid-free, scream-free weeks? Those parents aren’t foolish or selfish. They are brilliant.
My boys do not go to sleep-away camp, but I may need to reconsider that for next summer. With day camp, travel lacrosse and summer basketball leagues, I thought they’d be plenty occupied. I thought tensions would be low and the bickering would be kept to a minimum. Apparently, I was mistaken. With only half the summer gone, too much togetherness has started to take its toll on all of us. As our spring break trip proved, we co-exist better when there’s a bit of a break from each other. You know, like a good six or seven hours apart on a daily basis … the way it is during the school year. Oh, how I long for those glory days.
Anyway, just as the pre-teen moodiness and sibling rivalry was beginning to come to a head last week, we got a reprieve … and our first taste of the world of sleep-away camp. My oldest — a freshly minted 11-year-old — spent four days/three nights at the U.S. Naval Academy for lacrosse camp.
He was excited and he was ready. Four days of intense (but fun) lacrosse training and games. Four days with his buddies. Four days apart from the family. Four days of total independence.
I was excited and I was ready, too. Four days without fighting. Four days without eye rolling and back talk. Four days with only one child. Four days of peace (sort of … I did still have an 8-year-old to contend with).
Despite missing him, I’m glad he went. Those four days were a good introduction to the sleep-away experience for all of us. Maybe next year we’ll try seven days. Maybe the year after we’ll try it for both boys. Maybe eventually I’ll be one of those super cool, genius parents who gets the entire summer off … A girl can only dream*.
*For the record, I know if both my boys were gone for the entire summer, I’d miss them terribly . But half the summer … maybe?