Why is Sending Kids to Sleepaway Camp So Freakin Stressful

Sending the kids to camp is supposed to be this delightfully awesome time of freedom and reprieve, but it’s not for me.

So, as you can tell from the last post, (Confessions of an Irrational Mom), I’ve been totally anxiety stricken lately.  I wasn’t able to put my finger on why, until I looked at my finger and saw that I’d done this to my beautifully manicured gel nails.

Since this pic, I've ripped the overlay completely off with my teeth and bitten them to the quick. Annie, I'll see you in a month.

Then it dawned on me, it’s camp.  Sending my son to camp makes me mildly certifiable.  Knowing I  have NO control over whether my baby puts on sunblock or brushes his teeth, or eats Fruity Pebbles everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or runs with flip-flops on rocky terrain, or doesn’t make the intercamp team, or gets taken advantage of.

Look, I get it — those are all the reasons I sent my son to camp (well not the taken advantage of stuff, but the other stuff): to get some independence, to make new friends, to have fun, to get away from us, to get away from fighting with his sister, to have unique experiences, to learn that he doesn’t need us reminding him of every little thing.


But this is the same child who asked me to pack him a comforter this year.

“Um, I packed you a comforter last year, I bought it specifically for camp.”

“Nu-uh, you just sent that Yankees blanket.”

My son had spent the summer in upstate NY shivering under a throw, which was about the size of a baby blanket, and never thought to ask a counselor if they’d seen something a bit warmer in his bag or write us to inquire.

So, I do get the logical stuff, but I also know kids.

Plus, there’s an illogical part of my mind that’s hard to argue with, as it’s already been established that it doesn’t believe in what makes sense to begin with.  Hence warranting the moniker, “illogical.”

That’s the part that tells me not to take Xanax on a plane because I may need all my wits about me to save my family other passengers and possibly help land the thing.

That’s the part that heard my son tell me at the airport that he’d just used the money I gave him and bought Jolly Ranchers, and all I could think was, really, you had to get hard candy?

There I was about to send my son to camp to be alone for half a summer, and I was worrying about him buying a bag of hard candies, oh, the irony.  You can only imagine the stuff that I’m capable of making up in my head when I have no contact for some time.

When I went to camp, I never considered what was going on on the other side.  What the parents were dealing with. They didn’t even have daily pictures to wait for at all hours of the night — to scour for smiles, joy, and proof that their child was still safe and at camp. Frankly, I don’t know how they survived the summer without that modern perk!

Yet, I got the feeling those parents were mostly happy to get rid of us. They embraced their freedom, taking trips abroad and doing whatever it was parents did without us around in the 80‘s — smoked cigarettes and went to key parties, I’m assuming.

Some moms still do, embrace their freedom, that is.  I don’t know much about modern-day key parties, though I hear swinging is making a comeback.  Anyhoo, I hate those bitches!  Those moms that truly believe all will be good, that see this as a chance to get some space, maybe take a trip, see if they still love their spouses, their too evolved.

You know, the one’s that aren’t worrying if their kids will choke on hard candies, or about the plane or bus, or neglected hygiene, or trouble with social interaction, or bad choices, or the other myriad of possibilities.  They’re confident in the logic that says, their children will have a great/safe summer, and they will enjoy the reprieve.

Camp is as delightful for them as it is for the kids and it’s seems too effortless and uncomplicated and normal, and way out of my reach.  So, I’ll do what the rest of us do:  Enjoy my days, with that smidgen of underlying worry, stay up ‘til all hours waiting for pics to download (sometimes one at a time), send an email at least once a day trying to make mundane stuff like, what the dog is doing, where we found the cat hiding and what we had for dinner, seem fascinating and hope that he has as an awesome summer.

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33 thoughts on “Why is Sending Kids to Sleepaway Camp So Freakin Stressful

  1. Julie Gerstenblatt

    GREAT post, Jenny! I feel your pain, having just sent my 10 year old son to camp for the first time. 7 weeks!? Am I insane?! And I hated camp. Hay. Ted. (All girls, Maine, brown and white uniforms, no electricity..shall I continue? All GIRLS. Did my parents have something against me?) I love all your writing, but the heart and truth in this post (while also having your signature hahas) means I’m re-posting it on my fb page. Keep it comin’. And take deep breaths.

  2. Bari

    I know you miss your little man already. He’s adjusting and so are you. Just when you get it all down pat it’ll be time to pick him up. May I suggest next year you plan a trip to Tuscany. You won’t have a second to think otherwise.

  3. jenny hutt

    i just wrote about the same thing…kind of. well, i feel the same way. it is NOT just FUN when they go. it is freaking weird. you will be ok. more importantly, poo poo poo, he will be ok! their only job is to keep your son safe…and happy. we are all up looking at pictures all night.. same same same.

  4. Barry

    Ahhh, the key parties. No worries, concerns, freedom. Freedom without kids. OVERATED!!
    Writing long letters, worrying how the DAUGHTERS adapting was going was the RULE OF THE DAY..WAITING FOR MAIL FROM CAMP..(didn’t come very often). Sent a tape recorder one year with addressed return envelopes thinking I could beat the system. My kid says a couple words and passes the recorder to her bunk mates to say Hi. Took days to mail the tape. I had a duplicate recorder thinking I’m going to receive lots of tapes. IT WAS WORTH THE TRY. He’ll be great.

    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      Still bitter about that tape recorder, huh? Well, I thought you’d really like to hear a bunch of random 9-year-olds tell you funny and inappropriate (for 9-year-olds) jokes. I guess I’ve never really known what people want to hear. That’s why I started a blog… to be totally unrelatable and off the mark.

      I think I’m doing ok so far. PS- I know you spent the summers crying without me, you would stop talking to me a couple days before camp even started to distance yourself and I always had a letter from you the night before I even left!

  5. weezafish

    If it helps, I think your reactions to camp are more normal than the key party types. And who wouldn’t wanna be more normal than the key party types?! You’re supposed to worry, it’s our job as parents! Although a trip to Tuscany without kids does sound kind of divine …

  6. cherie

    Stop worrying…As you can see, he is having a great time. You have to do the same. You’re right, we just couldn’t wait for you to go away…all the free time, not a care in the world, NOT. We couldn’t wait to hear from you, I savored the letters and phone calls, because we had nothing else to tell us all was well with the world. Savor the fact that your son is having a fantastic time and will be happy to see you when he gets home. By the way, I remember a child that cried for 3 weeks after she came home, how do you think that made me feel. Enjoy.

    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      Mom – you seem a bit snippy about the comment that you love your freedom! We all know you were frequenting all the key parties so don’t try to deny it!!! Yes, I remember crying until you though I needed therapy!

  7. Judith

    Amen!!!!! My son is going to sleep away camp today for the first time ever!!!! UGH. He may be 14, but I’ve been sick about it for a week. 🙁

    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      This is mine’s first time at this camp. I don’t think it’s so much about the age as it is about experiencing something new and not knowing what to expect… and missing them. I’ll try to put up posts late night as I know you’ll be awake and searching for reassurance 🙂

  8. Caroline Murphy

    I would have eaten all the nails off! You are providing a GREAT experience for your son. You know that deep down inside! It’s just muffled with last minute freak outs!

  9. Rebecca Einstein Schorr

    I love sending them to camp. What I do NOT love is the to-do list and weeks of prep that makes it happen. I sometimes wonder if there is something wrong with the fact that I don’t get sick at the thought of being apart from them for four glorious weeks…

  10. Stephanie

    So funny! I need to ask my Dad about the key parties. The part about the daily pictures was hysterical.

  11. Karen Baitch Rosenberg

    First, Jenny, RUN – DO NOT WALK – directly to your manicurist. Get a hold of your self! What’s wrong with you, woman?! Spoil your daughter rotten while she’s the only one home, enjoy the clean(er) house, and get some JENNY time! Before you know it, you’ll be unpacking other campers’ dirty clothes and finding all the letters he wrote but forgot to mail. And my parents at a key party? Please.

    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      I try not to imagine your parents at key parties as a rule. I don’t know if I’m ready for a mani but a pedi would be great. Not that I’ve bitten my toenails off, just as an unrelated aside.

  12. Rachael

    Hello ANNIE…please fit my friend Jenny in ASAP as she can NOT wait a month!
    Jenny, Jake is a wonderful kid and you don’t need to worry “that much” about him. He is funny and smart a great friend and everyone loves him! Sleepaway camp is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child. Continued independence, communal living, time away from technology, opportunity to try new things are just some of the many benefits. I know you patiently wait for the daily photos…and then spend HOURS dissecting his facial expression.
    And maybe, just maybe, Jake is having the time of his life with all the sports and activities AND simply because you are NOT there to oversee his every move 100% of the time.
    I love you!!

  13. Rebecca Einstein Schorr

    I’ve been accused of many things; normal is not one of them.

    Most people are aghast when I tell them that I am sending my children away for four weeks. And won’t really miss them.

    Of course, most folks don’t realize that one of the aforementioned kids is on the autism spectrum and I need the break…

    Hang in there. You’ll be fine…they’ll have fun…and, at the very least, you’ll get some great blogging material!

  14. Loren Kent

    Great article Jenny! I know that you and I had some big fun at camp and I know your son will treasure his adventures for a lifetime.

  15. Pingback: Calls from Camp Could End My Marriage | The Suburban Jungle

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