Every summer, there’s a catch phrase that’s blurted out so frequently during my interactions with parents that I often wonder if they secretly believe it’s the key to unlock the holy grail of childrearing:
I’m not THAT parent.
It’s never followed by any type of explanation of who THAT parent is. In my line of work, it’s assumed that I know.
Spoiler alert: I KNOW.
There’s another phrase that’s uttered almost as frequently during these same types of interactions.
OMG. I’m THAT parent.
To me, that’s like the difference between valuable and invaluable. Even though they’re meant to have two different meanings, I tend to use them interchangeably.
All summer long, Ken and I talk about Camp Time. (Please note: Camp Time is different from Stacy Time, a phenomenon that makes me twelve minutes late for everything, despite my constant state of being “just two minutes away.”) In Camp Time, seven weeks goes by in the blink of an eye. And yet, those seven weeks are so jam-packed with activities and experiences and emotions, you live an entire lifetime within them.
I have stood with many of you as you fight back the tears at drop-off. Then I’ve jumped off the road to avoid others of you as you as you peel out of here on two wheels, so eager to get where you’re going so you can kick off your flip-flops and do your happy dance. No judgments here. I’ve done both.
Camp Time is what allows even the most anxious parents to get a few good letters, see a couple of smiley, sunshiny, friend-filled photos, and suddenly they’re the ones doing the happy dance. The flip side of that is that it also gives parents who had never worried about being worried before time to realize they aren’t hearing much from the Hill. So they start analyzing the few photos they’re seeing… or not seeing. They perseverate. They try not to call. When they do call, they apologize for requiring assistance to get off the Crazy Train.
I’m here to tell you (again) that you don’t need to apologize. We’re all on this train together. Our kids bought us the tickets and saw us off at the station.
Every night before I upload the photos onto Camp In Touch, I go through each and every one. I lighten. I brighten. I crop out the kid who’s looking at something else so you won’t wonder why he’s not engaged. I crop out the kid who’s chewing so you won’t wonder why his lips are pursed.
Last week, Rebecca Burstein, one of our veteran moms, posted a collage of Bauercrest photos of her son on Facebook. She included commentary next to each one. It is brilliant. It’s what most of you are thinking every time you Refresh, Refresh, Refresh. It’s what I’m thinking every time I post a photo of your son. How much explaining will I have to do? Does he look happy enough? Is that the same shirt he wore yesterday? Should I wait ’til tomorrow to get a better shot, or would she rather see this one right now so she can confirm he’s still here on the Hill? Thank you, Rebecca, for this amazingly detailed diagram of our Bauercrest Mom existence.
I am very aware that when the photos don’t tell enough of a story, the letters become that much more important. In a perfect world, you would all get multiple letters from your boys with detailed accounts of their amazing days on the Hillside. They would tell you all about friendships and field trips and how good the food’s been (it’s been insanely good). Each one would thank you profusely for this invaluable (see what I did there?) gift of overnight camp. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in this one, in which, more often than not, your boys are writing letters when they would rather be doing anything but. Most of them don’t tell the story at all. Unless the story is that they want more gum and Gatorade.
I had a mom call me a couple of weeks ago because she’d just received a letter from her first-time camper. He’d initially signed up for Mini Camp 1 and had already extended to first session. Now she was learning that she had to rearrange all her plans so the whole family could come up for Visiting Day… which until that moment had been in her calendar as “Last Day of Camp.” The letter read:
I miss you so much. I am extending. I am crying because I miss you.
Interpretation: I love you. I love camp. I want both at the same time. I can’t have both at the same time. I’m freaking out a little. Oh, look… an inchworm!
Very few of us would be able to look in the mirror after reading a letter like that without catching a glimpse of THAT parent. So cut yourselves some slack.
Doug Moleux is a Bauercrest alum, dad of Jackson (Junior B) and Colin (Sophomore), and the owner of Northern Lights Entertainment. A few years ago, he co-produced my favorite Bauercrest video of all time, Welcome To Our House. In this, his latest creation, he follows a first-time camper trying to find his way at Bauercrest (not literally…. it’s actually really easy to find your way here). Whether you’ve been sending your kids to camp for years or this is your first trip on the Crazy Train, click here to watch. It’s ADORABLE.
There’s a quote I love that says having children “is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”
So stop apologizing for needing a little reassurance every now and then. We signed up for this. We love what we do.
And thank you. For giving us your hearts.
All the best,