Playing by summer camp rules

By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Transcript columnist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript July 27, 2014

Regular Readers may recall that last summer we sent our older daughter to an overnight camp for a week and that I handled it with grace and ease by stalking her on the live webcams. It was a great experience for her, which we know about because for the ensuing 364 days she continued to talk about, reference, or in some way allude to camp on a nearly daily basis.

Finally, on day 365, we sent her back.

Only this time we didn’t send her alone. We sent her along with our younger daughter. The hitch was that our youngest would only attend for one week, while our eldest was required to stay for two. Besides the fact that it meant three weekends in a row of driving to Lake Winnipesaukee, it also meant that come the pick-up weekend for our youngest, we’d be at camp, but technically not allowed to see our eldest.

Over the years Regular Readers may have noticed that I’m kind of Type A – – I intuitively understand rules. Except, when they are rules that I intuitively understand are not meant for me.

Like seeing my own child.

Ok, ok, I did realize it would probably be easier for her to keep on camping without her high-strung emotional mother intruding into her days of beaches and bonfires.
 But when we got there to pick up our youngest, a fire drill caused a schedule delay and all the campers were still at morning meeting.

”Go see the kids singing together!” said a camp representative when we arrived at the empty cabin, “It’s great!”

All of them? Including camper siblings not going home? Did I question the possible rule violation? I did not.

Sure enough the entire camp was in the outdoor, woodsy amphitheater singing loudly. I saw our daughters right away, but they didn’t see us. And, in fact, when our older daughter stood up as part of a group presentation, she still didn’t see us. (Naturally, I assumed that despite recently turning 40, my husband and I simply blended in with the collegiate-aged counselors and were not, in fact, partially obscured by the trees. I’m sure you’d make the same assumption.)

When the meeting was over and the cabins broke to go to their various activities, our youngest daughter’s cabin made a bee line for their parents. Finally our older daughter saw us, possibly because I went, ‘Psssst!!’

I squealed with delight! I could give her a big kiss! I could . . . she burst into tears and buried her face in my sweatshirt.
 I looked around in a panic at the various counselors. I hadn’t caused the fire drill! I hadn’t planned to show up to the all camp meeting! I hadn’t meant to break the rule (well not too much). I hadn’t meant to traumatize my mid-session daughter . . . but . . . I had.

I managed to ascertain, mid-sweatshirt snuffles, that she was having fun and not playing tennis per our camp activity plan. Instead she was taking water-log rolling. Huh. I imagined “water log rolling team” on her college application forms and then decided, given my own parental infraction, that it was not the time to question such a choice.

On the drive home and ensuing days I was certain we’d ruined camp for her – – that seeing us mid-session had made her lonely and sad and merely drifting through week two. Then we got this postcard from her, and I quote:
“Dear Mommy and Daddy, I’m still not doing tennis! There are too many other fun activities. This week I’m trying Narnia, Underwater Basket Weaving, and Random Explosions! I’m not too homesick at all!”

Not too homesick. I’d take it. I hadn’t totally blown up her camp experience. Apparently the only thing being blown up, best I could infer from her cryptic card, was a wet, woven, wardrobe??

So I haven’t perfected this Camp Mommy thing yet. Maybe next year, only 364 days to go.