Charming Baby is away for two weeks at an overnight mountain camp. I am sure he is having the time of his life, but I wouldn’t know for sure because I haven’t received even so much as a postcard. If I had a girl, I would have three newsy letters by now, complete with details like the names of all cabin mates and a hand-drawn diagram of the bunks and who sleeps where.
I had originally presented the idea as a one-week trip, but the Professor talked me into two. Not because he wanted to recreate the lazy BK (before kids) summers of our twenties with afternoon naps and entire days spent trolling around movie theaters, eating as much popcorn and Red Vines as we wished, but because he said it takes a week to get over homesickness and then you really start to have fun.
The Professor, like many east coast kids, grew up going to camp for six or eight-weeks every summer. (He recalls six weeks, his brother recalls eight. They both remember starting at age nine.) When First Born Prince turned nine, the Professor asked about sending him. You might as well have asked me if I would cut out my heart, throw it on the ground and do the Mexican hat dance on it.
When FBP turned 13, we tried a few of those three-day sports camps hosted at universities where the kids play their sport all day long and sleep in the college dorms and eat in the campus cafeterias. I didn’t like the fact the kids had unlimited access to their electronic devices, pizza, Coca Cola and candy bars. He adored the freedom, the long days of lacrosse and making new friends from all over.
Eventually we were turned on to a family-run weeklong lacrosse camp in the Adirondacks. NO electronics, no candy, no staying up late playing Fooze-ball in the game room, high on partially hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup. Just home-cooked meals, lacrosse in the morning, traditional mountain camp activities in the afternoon and enforced lights out. Even though FBP liked the local university three-day benders better, the Professor and I felt the more traditional mountain camp experience was the way to go and so paved the way for his younger brother to try something similar.
I wasn’t sure about sending CB at age 11. Yes, younger siblings mature faster but it surprised me that he agreed to two weeks. Granted, he was going with one of his closest friends, but this is the kid who still refers to the day camp I sent him to when he was five as “Baby Jail.” A mother’s guilt, fear and shame have no limits.
Thank God I watched the camp’s webinar Parents' Overview last spring. They told us what to pack, how to pack (Label everything! Involve the camper!). The most depressing rule was that campers couldn’t receive food in care packages. Not even gum. The most helpful tip for me was about letter writing to our campers -- to just send news about what's going on at home and not dwell on how much we missed them. I would have written “I LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU SO MUCH!!!! I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL YOU GET HOME!!!!” I was forced to be a fake, Chatty Cathy. I did sneak in a few xoxo's, but I was strong, I even signed off, "Love, Mom" instead of "Mama" which is what he calls me when he's feeling like my baby.
Perhaps one of his experienced bunkmates is up there coaching him right now. “Don’t write home, it will just make your mom cry. Make her think you are having so much fun you forgot to write.” Maybe that’s what he’s thinking and we can just tell each other the dirty, stinky, bug-bitten truth. When he gets home. To his mama. Next Saturday.