I love being a Camp Mom. Someone needs a little extra attention, I let him chill in my office. Someone’s feeling kidsick, I text her a few extra pics. Someone’s bunk’s a mess, I throw them all Swiffers and make them sing and dance to “It’s a Hard-Knock Life.” But it’s no secret that being an actual mom is a whole different ball of wax. And while I realize the two roles are not mutually exclusive, I often wish I felt half as accomplished at the end of a day in my personal Mom role as I do in my professional one.
Ken and I traveled quite a bit in January. We went to CampMinder Camp in Boulder, then the following week to a camp fair in Dallas, where we were able to spend a lovely Shabbat dinner with our Big D families. Locally, we’ve been going out to meet new camper families (you will LOVE them!) and introducing Ken to current families as well. The Camp Mom in me is, as Henry would say, ON FIYA! But I’m still very much a work in progress in terms of navigating my way through the balancing act that has become my life.
Like all of you, I want what’s best for my kids; but I would be lying if I said I always know what that is. So sometimes (usually) I wing it. And every so often (twice), I end up with a result that makes me believe I’ve got it all figured out.
This past September I had tickets to Bruce Springsteen at Gillette. I desperately wanted to take Max, but I knew the show wouldn’t end before midnight. It was a school night; he’d be luggage the next day. Okay, he’d be luggage for the rest of the week. But if Springsteen could be his first concert, just as it had been mine nearly 30 years earlier… you can see I had no choice. I have to admit, I was slightly dismayed to glance down during “Rosalita” to find him sprawled out across three chairs, fast asleep. But then he rallied. And it was pure magic.
The next day, my friend was volunteering in Max’s classroom, where each student had to use the word “retrospect” in a sentence. She told me that Max stood up, yawning, and announced, “In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have gone to Bruce Springsteen last night.” Wrong. Good use of the word, but wrong. I know this because he still talks about it all the time. And I know because as we were making our way to the exit during the last encore, Max ran into a couple of his Bauercrest buddies, and I was able to snap this photo. I love this photo. Two generations of Crestmen, just out making memories. At midnight. On a school night.
Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to countless families, both current and prospective, about their plans for this summer. New camper parents question whether it’s the right time to send their sons to camp, and if they do, for how long. Unlike in my personal Mom role, where I can’t get out of the gray areas fast enough, I thrive on these conversations, and on the fact that there’s no formula. No right answers, no wrong answers… just best guesses, made with the best of intentions. I cannot promise that a camper won’t ever be homesick. What I can promise is that we will stop at nothing to make sure the homesickness pales in comparison to all the other incredible moments that make up camp.
Recently we took our kids to spend a weekend with their cousins in Vermont. It was a beautiful day, and we all decided to go for a hike. I am not much of a hiker, and by that I mean that I had only ever hiked once before. Accidentally. Jaden also had reservations from the start. There would be water stops and lookout stops, but there would be no Pokestops; he simply didn’t see the point. In addition, he was not confident he could make it to the top. There was a lot of resting and a lot of kvetching, with the two of us falling further and further behind.
I wish I could say he was slowing me down, but if I’m being honest, it was much harder than I’d anticipated. I wondered whether we should just turn around and go back, but even that was easier said than done. We were supposedly following a trail, but as a new Jewish hiker, I didn’t always see one. Without a trail, our only choice was to follow people who looked like they knew what they were doing. Because it was early morning, everyone was still going up, not down. We’d have to keep going.
Jaden continued to worry that we wouldn’t make it, so I took every opportunity to assure him that OF COURSE WE WILL. Then, somewhere around the 27th time I said it out loud, I started to believe it. OF COURSE WE WILL. We might not reach the summit with the rest of our group— at the pace we were going, I was hoping we’d reach it before next Purim— but so what?
As slow as we’d been before, we were stopping even more now, remarking how the ice on the grass looked just like the crystals in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. (Neither of us knew that’s what it was called. We spent at least 10 minutes trying to determine whether it was his palace or his cave. I finally just Googled it.) Once the pressure was off to keep up with everyone else, we actually started to enjoy ourselves.
And once we stopped questioning whether we’d make it, that became our answer: No question.
It’s the same with camp. Not everyone’s journey will be the same. It’s a well-known fact that some of our best counselors made their Bauercrest debuts as our most homesick campers… kids who pushed through it because they didn’t want to miss the reward at the end.
They didn’t turn around and go back.
The funny thing is– and I’m sure all our staff and alumni would agree– there really isn’t a reward at the end. The reward is everything you gather on the way there.
I hope 2017 is sprinkled with unforgettable late nights and climbs that take your breath away… literally and/or figuratively. ?