| Two Cents |

Summer Baggage  

           "Would it kill them to send a note, preferably not written on a scrap of neon paper that’s buried under —and bleeding into —a heap of wet laundry?"


Just when the tidal wave of tuition bills abates, there’s always the next expense: camp. As former campers, we see our childhood summer days shrouded in a hazy, rosy glow of beautiful memories that shaped us into the functioning members of society we are today. As adults, we have questions, such as: Why Are All These Strange Children Wearing the Expensive Clothes I Got You? and Where Has Your Voice Gone? and the perpetual You Did What on Your Overnight Trip to Niagara?

Confused parents submit their questions:


Every summer, my usually happy, content child feels utterly inadequate when every one of her bunkmates, without exception, is shipped refrigerator boxes stuffed with food and prizes on a daily basis. She never exaggerates so I assume these stories are correct. I don’t believe in giving in to peer pressure, but I also want my daughter to feel as special as the other package getters. (That’s not peer pressure, that’s love.) So what do I do?

If it’s food packages your daughter seeks, we happen to know of several institutions distributing just that. Avoid having to send out the “Anyone want an 8lb tube of ground turkey?? and 16 avocados and 45 milks???” text you usually do on Thursday afternoons and send that box straight up to camp. Everyone’s a winner. In fact, several mosdos in a certain city got their hands on an advance copy of this column and decided that they should take advantage of this food-package-to-child pipeline. Rumor has it they have built an express railroad from Lakewood to Monticello for efficiency’s sake, so book your box a seat before it’s stacking room only.


My kid left home, a nerdy, low maintenance angel with zero hasagos. She waltzed back after four short weeks asking for a Popit duffle bag and pillow set. How do I get my shy dweeb back? What’s a Popit? And how could you sleep on it?

You could always keep your daughter home for the summer where she’ll be exposed to no negative influences, ask for no narishkeit, and ruin her ability to make friends forevermore. If that won’t work, kick the can down the road on this trend and say a kapitel that the Popit pillowcase craze will blow over quickly and that the next hot thing is something cheap, like a pet seashell. And if you have to ask what a Popit is, maybe invest a little time in learning the trends so you can not only decide which ones are worth an argument, but invent the next big thing and set your future doros up for full support.


My son’s luggage just arrived home on the truck, and the baggage handlers were so concerned about the fumes it was emitting, they changed into hazmat suits just to put it in my car trunk. Do you think he changed his linen once or twice?

As many times as you need to tell yourself so you can sleep at night, sweetie. Do yourself a favor and buy your cleaning lady a preemptive lunch before she has to handle that mess. And if your cleaning lady is you, buy yourself supper too.


I sent my son to camp 18 days and 4 hours ago (give or take) and have not yet received a single phone call from him. If I zoom on in the emailed camp newsletter, I can see his side profile in one crowd shot from week two (he’s three sweaty kids deep), and his leg and sneaker in a picture from week three. Do I assume that if I haven’t heard anything he’s probably alive? Or should I call the police about doing a wellness check?

Calling the police sounds like a very sound and rational idea. Just instruct the officers that if the camp gets upset, they should handcuff a senior staff member and yell, “Color War is here, Color War is here, if you are lazy, you are crazy!” And they are crazy, for not setting up a livestream of your son’s bunkhouse to relieve the worry of a normal Yiddishe mama.

My daughter’s day camp is adorable. They have themes for their themes, take the kids on exciting trips (that they don’t need parental chaperones for), provide snacks and lunch and late pickup. I know, a mother’s dream. But it all came crashing down when my four-year-old told me she needs to be dressed in a full poodle circle skirt and saddle shoes for “50’s day” 14 minutes before her van was due to arrive. And then she informed me that she was the only kid wearing pajamas on the day she told me was pajama day. Would it kill them to send a note, preferably not written on a scrap of neon paper that’s buried under —and bleeding into —a heap of wet laundry?

Think of day camps as the ultimate impossible triangle. You can have two of three: ideal hours, incredible programming, or amazing communication. Be honest: Would you like to change anything?


My kid is always embarrassed about something minor on visiting day, and it’s impossible to tell what will set him off. Is it really a big deal if his father takes a nap on his camp bunk bed? How else should we know if it’s suitable for our little tzaddik to sleep on? Is it a problem if his mother asks the head counselor for a full-blown PTA meeting? We just want to make sure he’s being taken care of! How do we make sure that he’ll actually talk to us on V-day?

Exposure therapy is all the rage these days. Good thing you’re asking in advance, because you need to start now by embarrassing him every day until he goes off to camp, in increasingly intense situations. Call his rosh yeshivah to tell him how proud you are of him (the rosh yeshivah, not your son) for running the school so smoothly. Volunteer your son to be a mother’s helper for his math teacher. Call his school and have the secretary buzz into his classroom to tell him you love him over the loudspeaker. He’ll be good and prepped once camp rolls around. And don’t let the two weeks of separation before visiting day slow you down, either. We’re sure in this economy you can find someone willing to deliver a singing telegram to Randomville, PA.


As a first-time camp parent, I was somehow under the impression that the $2,999 payment I paid (in advance, in cash) for the privilege of lending the camp my child for four weeks would cover everything she needed for that time period. Please explain why her packing list included the “unofficial official packing list” which we did not get in the mail but apparently is common knowledge and includes: one mini fridge, one set of rolling shelves, one hoverboard, 3 pairs of sneakers in varying shades of white, and eight Shabbos outfits (don’t worry, I’m told, that includes backups).

We… have no answers here. You can always save yourself some money and take the whole family on a cruise around the world instead.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 748)

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