My 9 year old daughter will be going to overnight camp for the first time for 2 weeks this summer and I am not freaking out. In fact, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see her face when we get there. I can’t wait to see her begin to make friends as we unpack. I can’t wait to meet other parents. I can’t wait to kiss her constantly when we say goodbye and her yelling at me to stop as she pushes me away, ready to run off to her counselors and new friends.
She has an opportunity that I have been waiting to give her since she was born (actually before that!). She is attending my camp, my family’s camp. She is part of the 3rd generation of our family who has attended Camp Yavneh in NH. This is the place I was able to come into my own, where I gained a second family and where I was able to spread my wings. From the beginning, at the age of 8, I was enthralled with camp…so many activities, so many new friends. I attended camp for 12 years, from camper to counselor. My brothers and I were more than lucky. Our parents could simply not afford to pay for 3 kids and as teachers at camp (Judaica classes are held there), they were able to work at camp in order to provide us with that experience. My father worked there for 9 years and my mother for 8 years (she opened her own business in a career change and would come up to camp on weekends).
My husband and I are able to send our daughter based on a grant and me conducting mental health trainings for the counselors. I have always had 2 non-negotiables in my head since I was young: sending my child(ren) to a Jewish Day School and Camp Yavneh. I didn’t care if I was on welfare, I would simply make it happen. We are not at all wealthy people and were financially struck down when I became extremely ill with severe depression 5 years ago. We are lucky for financial aid and amazing support.
My daughter cannot wait to go to camp. She has been asking throughout the year, “what else should I practice, in terms of responsibility before I go to camp?” I love that question and it has helped instill more independence in her. She was born to go to camp: loves the activities and has such camp spirit, which she has demonstrated at each of the day camps she has attended.
I have told my husband that when we pick her up after those 2 weeks, we will be taking home a slightly different kid, more responsible and independent and more confident. I am sure of this. Two weeks may not sound like a long time, but one basically lives in a cocoon when at overnight camp. You live in a different world, cut off from electronics and the bustle of everyday life. It is a break that is like none other. She deserves that.
Of course, the other piece of this is that my husband and I have 2 weeks to ourselves as we only have one child. We talk about how strange and quiet it will be in our house but how excited we are to have so much time to ourselves. While he works full-time and I work part-time, we hope to take a couple of days for ourselves and will still be able to enjoy our evenings and weekends alone. Don’t get me wrong, we will miss her with all of our heart and soul, but we have never had this amount of time together, alone, in over 9 years and I want us to cherish it.
So, I am not freaking out and I cannot wait for her to give daddy and mommy the “running hug” when we pick her up, talking non-stop and too fast, telling us how she had the best time ever. I can’t wait to plan play dates during the year, schlepping her to where her new friends live, doing exactly what my parents did. These 2 weeks will change our lives in so many ways and I cannot wait to experience it all, not only through my eyes and my husband’s, but, most importantly, through her eyes.