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The Magic of Camp Mommy

I was running Camp Mommy solo, no older children around to help me, and it was exhausting

Last summer, I took out a dusty relic from my younger years and did Camp Mommy.

When I was in my twenties, with just two or three small kids at home, I’d take on that yawning abyss between camp and school with energy and vigor. I’d research, plan, grab a tote bag with some drinks and snacks, and off we’d go. It was fun!

And exhausting, probably.

But the Camp Mommy of my mind was coated with that magical powder that gives old memories an idyllic sheen.

So when midsummer I was faced with a week in which I had only my three younger kids, all under age eight, at home, Camp Mommy winked at me from the recesses of my mind in all its glistening nostalgia.

I can do this again, I thought. Why not give these younger kids a chance at Camp Camp Mommy, too? Didn’t they deserve it also? We’d have so much fun.

Decision made, I let my kids know. They were thrilled.

We chose the Children’s Museum for our first destination. It seemed like the perfect trip for this younger set of kids who never seem to get to do anything tailor-made for them. It’s a fun, wholesome place, kind of like a giant playroom where you can make a huge mess and no one makes you clean up.

Day one of Camp Mommy dawned bright and hot. Instead of rushing around getting the kids off to day camp, we took it slow. I drank my coffee, and davened in between complaints and requests for help. I tried to stretch out the morning until our reservation at the museum. I gave them lunch, picked up a friend, and finally we were on our way.

The drive there was uneventful; anticipation and a story CD were enough to keep everyone happy until we arrived at the museum.

We walked inside, paid, and began to explore. The kids were in heaven, surrounded by a cornucopia of colors and sounds. There was a miniature supermarket with small checkout counters and scanners, and a virtual reality pool on the floor that made real waves when you stepped on it. It was all a bit loud for me, but being a good sport, I soldiered on.

The kids ran from one exhibit to the next. For them, it was better than being in a candy store. I schlepped along next to them, looking for a place to sit at each exhibit, resisting the urge to pull out my cell phone. I yawned, feeling a bit old.

I was running Camp Mommy solo, no older children around to help me, and it was exhausting. By the time our session was over, I was bombed. I trudged back to the car while the kids skipped and ran. Of course they were starving, so we made up for the two (two!) whole hours with no food or drinks by desperately polishing off any snacks and drinks I had in the car.

The car ride home was tough. We hit midafternoon rush hour traffic. My two-year-old kept falling asleep as I desperately sang Uncle Moishy songs to keep her awake, and my five-year-old sprouted a headache/stomachache/arm-hurts-ache.

Where was the Shiny Camp Mommy of my memories? Had the kids cried and kvetched then, too? Had I felt this tired when I was ten years younger? All I wanted was a couch to put my feet up on and a solid nap.

Somehow we made it to dinnertime. As my sweet children ate (again), and I had a few minutes to recover, I asked them if the first day of Camp Mommy had been fun. Beaming, the three of them vigorously nodded their heads.

Suddenly the exhausting day felt worth it. And when I put my five-year-old to bed that night, she didn’t beg me to lie with her like she usually does, not letting me leave until her eyes are closed. She seemed so secure, so happy, as though that day she’d finally gotten enough of me.

And I realized that my exhaustion, the holes in the day where they were bored or I might have snapped at them, that feeling that the day was schlepping on — it all didn’t matter. Because once again, Camp Mommy had worked its magic.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 855)

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