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A friend told me about her child leaving for a week long trip with her school. It was, she said, the first time they had been apart. 

Me: Except for summer camp, right?

Friend: ?

Me: When your child goes to camp for the summer?

Friend: You send your children away just when it gets nice outside? Is that an American thing or did you just not like your kids?

Me: Nice weather we’re having. How’s your dog?

I tried to explain about camp, but couldn’t help remembering this post I’d written back in the day. 

[musical accompaniment for this post]

Confessions of a Bad Mother (#gazillion-and-one)

Last week I drove 7 1/2 hours so I could leave my daughter with total strangers.

When she first brought up the subject of summer camp, I was amazed. “Why would you want to go to another state for a month without your mother? Haven’t I ever told you about my own camping experience at Camp Wanna-go-home?”

Most of my days at Camp W were spent trying to identify the food or waiting for the camp canteen to open so I could buy postcards and stamps to send to my parents begging them to get me out of there. In these postcards, I tried everything from bribery (“Come and get me now and i promise to become the first nun to go to Harvard Medical School”) to threats (“Get me now, or when I get home I’m going to try for the word record for longest continuous rendition of the Oscar Mayer Weiner theme song“). But nothing worked, not even when I told them the showers had been broken since the day we got there and the bears were filing complaints with the EPA.

It’s only fair to admit that Camp W was not a total loss. I acquired some basic interpersonal life skills—short-sheeting beds, ‘pennying’ the counselor into the latrine while we froze and flag-poled her underwear—which prepared me for the sophisticated, intellectual environment of my college dormitory. Plus I learned to prepare a cold camp breakfast (peanutbutter and marshmallows on crackers), a hot camp lunch (torch the marshmallows and add a Hershey Bar to the crackers) and a nutritionally balanced camp dinner (rub two sticks together until the counselors get back with the deluxe pizzas). This experience was invaluable future preparation for my first apartment.

My daughter was not impressed. “Camp technology has come a long way since your day,” she told me as she filled out the camp forms. “They probably order the pizzas online now.”

“You better not cry,” she kept warning me as we drove up to the camp. “After all, I AM ten. AND a half. I don’t want anyone to think I know you.”

Actually, I’m proud to report that I did not cry, even when I was on the Camp Parents’ Tour and we got to the place where the camp director said there used to be trees and cabins until that big tornado last year…

When we got home, I was afraid to leave the phone. Days passed while I waited for the call I was sure was coming: “Mrs. Taub, your daughter misses you desperately, so you’re going to have to come and get her right away.”

Or perhaps a telegram:

Maybe the camp director would send me a fax:

Dear Mrs. Taub,

Your daughter is doing as well as can be expected after her horse was startled by a flash of sunlight glinting off her braces. Fortunately, she was wearing her helmet, so her head is okay. Unfortunately, the rest of her is in a body cast. But she will be writing to you herself as soon as she gets the hang of holding that pen in her teeth.

After a week, I finally got an actual letter from my camper.