The Awesome Highs and Excruciating Lows of Sending Kids To Camp

I’ve been waiting for this summer for years: the summer when I could pack my kids off to camp for weeks and reclaim my old pre-mom life. Because as awesome as being a mom can be, it’s also filled with logistics and bickering and stuff I really wanted a break from.

The kids went to sleepaway camp for a week last year, but that didn’t have a huge impact. My husband takes them to Florida twice a year to see his parents, so my psyche is used to having five or six kid-free days at a time. And yes, I know a lot of parents would kill for that kind of a break, but I was craving more.

After their week away last year the kids begged to go for longer, so we all settled on a six-week session. We’re past the half-way mark now, and what I’ve learned is that while I’m definitely getting an awesome break, out-of-sight is not out-of-mind.

Fiona at campMy favorite part of the day is scanning through the camp pictures and seeing what my kids are up to. The surprising thing is that even though I’m glad they’re gone and that I’m getting a mental rest, I’m still dying to know what they’re up to. Even when they’re not in the pictures, I can still see what the campers have available to them. Whenever I see how many activities are available, I know the kids are having experiences they would never otherwise have. They’re lucky.

Seeing the determination on Fiona’s face when she was throwing a ball, and hugging her friends after a win, or how excited Jake was as he slapped the buzzer during a quiz show game, and playing drums with his band. Those are the moments that make me smile, and I look at them over and over again, and my heart swells up knowing that they’re having fun and doing just fine. And their letters have been filled with achievements and great news about camp happenings and not much talk at all of missing us or coming home.

But it’s not all reassuring pictures and happy letters. Generally our camp discourages phone calls, but we arranged to talk to the kids on Jake’s birthday. Yup, that’s right, I didn’t get to see my son on his eleventh birthday. That was hard, but we knew from the beginning that would happen, and Jake had been sure he’d be fine having his birthday at camp. They do what they can to make it a really big deal.

But still, it’s not the same.

I almost missed the call because of some travel troubles, but it all worked out and I got to talk to each kid for about five minutes. They had just talked to my husband (he was back in Brooklyn) and I could tell Jake was a bit choked up – his answers tended to be one or two words, and I could hear his voice wavering a bit. That was hard to hear. His letters have been so enthusiastic, lots of caps yelling about how awesome camp is. But during that conversation I could see why the camp discourages talking to parents. Old fashioned letters don’t bring the sounds of home right back to you.

But, he had gotten the gifts we’d sent, and had cake with his cabin. Sounds like he’d had a great day – up until our calls. :-)

Talking to Fiona was heartbreaking though. She sounded a little down, and told me that she had thrown up the day before and spent the night in the infirmary. I’m sure they deal with this kind of thing all the time, but I don’t care who you are: when you’re sick, you want your mommy. I felt terrible that I hadn’t been there for her, but what can you do? These things happen.

And I’ll admit it: there was a small part of me that was relieved that I’d dodged taking care of a barfy kid.

I know she was down because she wasn’t feeling well, but I’d wanted so much to hear my bubbly daughter’s squeaky voice, and I didn’t get my fix.

Jake at campHundreds of people in Miami International Airport got to see me wipe my eyes and get myself together after the call. And no matter what, it was great to hear their voices, even if they didn’t sound like themselves. So, with letters and pictures to reassure me that they really were having a great time, I shook off the call.

Now I’m in a weird place. In three days I get to see them on visiting day, and twelve days later they’ll be home. At the same time that I can’t wait to hug them, it’s hitting me that my time alone is almost over. And I have my fingers crossed they want to go next year, because despite a few misgivings the break really has been awesome. And while I would probably push them to go back no matter what, I know my husband wouldn’t, if the kids weren’t 100% enthusiastic. That’s a battle I probably wouldn’t win.

It’s tougher than some of us make it look, sending our kids off to camp. But it’s also wonderful. I can’t wait until it’s over, and I can’t wait until it happens again.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.


  1. says

    We already know we are doing a week trial at a sleepaway camp next year. I LOVED sleepaway camp as a kid. And I’m already worried. Michael is DYING to go. But I’m not sure he is ready. But on the other hand, if he loves it, I’M SO READY FOR MORE THAN A WEEK.

    • says

      @jodifur: Oh, for your sake, I hope he loves it! My husband and I were talking about this last night. It’s the $64,000 question right now: will they tell us six weeks was too long? Not enough?

  2. says

    My daughter spent her first two week session at overnight camp this summer (though her 4yo brother was still home with us), and I went through every one of the emotions you describe above. I stalked the camp website for photos. I waited not-so-patiently for letters. At drop off day, we found out she had lice. This was a first for our family, and I was totally distraught at leaving her in their (albeit very capable) hands. We got one letter that was a kick to the stomach, that she’d been accidentally hurt and had “no good news.” BUT. The pictures and following letters showed an incredibly happy kid who got to try all sorts of new things. I wrote a post about some of it ( – and she cried when it was time to come home. I, of course, cried when I saw her, and three times later that day too. My heart was bursting for her and all wonderful things she got to do, but breaking for me and how much I missed her!

    • says

      @Cheryl: Oh I hear you. I try so hard not to check the camp pictures page until after noon – since they tend to upload in the morning, if I catch it mid-upload I turn into one of those zombie camp moms sitting there refreshing the page endlessly. Luckily I have no ego about my kids missing me – I’m hoping they cry when it’s time to leave. I’m hoping they had that great a time!

  3. amy says

    Amy, this is what I’ve been doing every morning for 2 weeks! Will is away for 3, and he was away for 2 weeks earlier in the summer. He had his phone at the first place (a college program) and called more often than I thought he should, but he always said he was having a good time. He sounds so much younger on the phone, it made me worry even though everything was ok. I love being able to see pix of his smiling face now, and I’ve gotten 2 really short notes, saying he’s fine and please send snacks. I’m actually happier that I can’t talk to him.

    But the thing that surprised me is how I have reacted. Really missing him and feeling at loose ends. Even though when he was home for 2 weeks in between camps, he drove me crazy and I couldn’t wait for him to go away again! I know part of this is because I’m off for the summer (which is great, really!), but for the first time in years, I haven’t had much to do. I’ve been sleeping late and napping in the afternoons, walking around in a half coma. Finally realized that I’m being pathetic and have to get moving! It doesn’t hurt that I must get my syllabi done for the fall and I only have a couple of weeks left, so I’m being forced back to work (which is a good thing.) Gotta try to enjoy the peace for a few more weeks, because it will be over soon and our crazy regular life will kick in again.

    • says

      @amy: Amy, as curious as I was about how the kids would do at camp, I was almost as curious about what my life would be like while they were away – would I become super-organized? Lay in bed all day? Well, I’ve been getting up super early almost every day to bike and swim, which has been awesome. It’s a schedule I simply wouldn’t be able to do with the kids home. On the other hand, I have done barely any cleaning and laundry. The place is a disaster! :-)

      • amy says

        @Amy: Ha, I pretty much did the opposite. My closets are very clean. I am still 40 lbs overweight.

        PS, You do know this is your old friend Amy, formerly from Bklyn, now in PA, right?

        • amy says

          @amy: PPS, are you at BlogHer? You should try to meet my latest awesome friend in marketing/social, Anna Lingeris from Hershey. I know she was speaking on some panel there.

          • says

            @amy: Of course – recognized your name right away! And I did stop in and meet Anna. Turns out she knew who I was through a different mutual friend – small world!

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