Sleepaway Camp Sucks
My kid left for sleepaway camp Wednesday morning.
It’s the first time he’s going for the whole summer
It’s also the first time he didn’t want us to drive him. He wanted to take the bus. With his friends.
I think I may be overly attached to my kid. We have that unique ‘mother-son’ bond.
I’m not saying the other filial bonds aren’t as strong. The mother-son connection is a very specific relationship, just as the others are. For me, it’s “I’d walk through fire for this kid” strong.
Sleepaway camp is a Thing. You either grew up with it, or you didn’t. And if you didn’t (like me) it’s hard to understand why people are such slavish devotees. It’s practically a cult, and I’m no stranger to cults.
My Ex grew up going to sleep away camp, so naturally he wanted our son to experience it. I knew Little Dude would either love it or hate it. There’s no in between.
The first year we were considering it, we were with a few other families at one of our houses.
I said,”Sleep away camp! That’s where kids learn every filthy thing they know! That’s where slutty little camper girls give boys BLOW JOBS!”
The dads all looked at one another.
“Where do we sign UP?!”
Little Dude was only 8 years old when he went for 2 weeks that first summer.
Do I even have to TELL you what a basket case I was? We don’t have family near by, so my kid had never slept out of the house before. I waited all of two hours before checking on him. I called the camp every hour until 9 pm when they politely but firmly informed me that my son was FINE, but maybe I should calm the fuck down?
When he returned home, my kid, for first and only time, said he hated me – hated US. The culture shock of returning to genteel society after two weeks of living in the woods like a wild hyena had disoriented and confused him.
And he wanted to stay longer.
And so, a sleepaway camper was born.
That summer, he got up the next morning and for the first time, picked out clothes himself and came downstairs dressed.
Hmmm. Perhaps…there is good in this?
For Little Dude, it’s utter freedom. No one to bug him about table manners or picking up his socks. It’s a majestic camp ground in gorgeous woods with a spectacular lake and every activity a kid would want to do in the summer. It’s heaven on earth.
But OH MAH GOD he comes home filthy. I’m a germaphobe. I won’t even let him unpack his bags in my house. We unpack in the garage, and his mildewed musty laundry goes straight into the washing machine. Twice. While I douse all his bags with Lysol.
The first year, I wanted my kid to strip down in the driveway while I hosed him off, but my ex refused to let me, citing that as “cruel” because our hose only has cold water.
The second year, my kid went for a whole session, which is a month. He came home tan and fit and blissful.
And with impetigo. Ugh.
Last year when we went to see Little Dude on visiting day, he was in the infirmary with a virus. He was so ill we brought him home to see his pediatrician. She insisted we take him immediately to the ER. He was admitted to the hospital, and after a day, was transported by screeching ambulance to a bigger hospital with a pediatric oncology department.
You think I’ve survived some bad shit? It was all a cake walk compared to thinking my kid might have lymphoma. I spent 4 days in a pediatric oncology ward while they ran endless tests on my baby.
Lotta sick kids in that ward.
I’m just going to take a moment here to acknowledge how grateful I am that my son is healthy.
The doctors eventually diagnosed it as Mesenteric Lymphadenitis, a swelling of the lymph nodes in the intestines. It’s caused by a virus, but no one else from camp had gotten sick. It was mysterious and terrifying, as illness often is.
You think a scare like that might intimidate a kid, but mine has been chomping at the bit to get to camp since May.
This year, we decided my son would go for the whole summer. I have to pack up our house and move into a new place before school starts. It’ll be easier if he’s away.
Some parents do a crazy happy dance when their kids go off to camp. Not me.
Yes, I do get to go out and do All The Things. I travel, see friends. Write. But I miss my kid.
This year I’m really struggling.
The night before Little Dude left, I cooked his favorite meal – fajitas- and we watched a great documentary – Fresh Dressed. It’s about the evolution of hip hop culture in New York. I probably dug the fact that my kid was into this movie as much as I dug the movie itself.
He left on Wednesday morning and I didn’t speak to anyone, aside from Lizzi, for two days. I let phone calls go into voice mail. I took a break from Facebook and found out they had disabled my account for having a pseudonym. I didn’t care.
My house is usually so noisy. My kid talks constantly. Always has friends over. Blasts music. Plays XBox online so it sounds like there’s an army of psychopaths killing hookers in my basement.
It’s so quiet. I can hear the walls breathing.
My Ex stopped by this morning, to make sure I was eating (I was not) and not pining for my son (I was). I got my ass out of the house and bought some groceries. Sad little single-person groceries.
I didn’t speak to anyone because I wanted to lean into this sadness and explore it. I have never missed him like THIS before.
Yes, it’s the first time my kid will be away an entire summer.
It’s also the end of his childhood home. We’ll be in a new place. The last vestiges of our happy family will be wiped away forever. I know it’s a fresh start, and one I need – but it’s also tremendously sad. My kid will never be a toddler walking around this house again.
It’s the end of an era.
Eventually, I’ll embrace all that this means for the both of us.
But for now, I’m just going to feel how it feels to say goodbye to the little boy and the house he grew up in.
Do you have a kid who goes away during the summer?
Can you imagine missing your child like this?
I should be having debauched bacchanalian blowouts in my house all summer. Are you available?
Talk to me. I’m listening.