Thanks for your comprehensive coverage of off-the-list packing for camp in the last issue.
After finally sending my daughter off to camp for the first time, all of a sudden planning for visiting day is upon me. Everyone I know complains about it, and if at all possible, I’d like to make it a positive experience. Any advice?
I have to be honest with you: Last summer, my daughter went off to a new camp, and as I perused the materials they sent, I saw the blessed words, “There will be no visiting day this year.” Let me tell you, I was not mad about this. The very same words appeared in camp materials this year, and I jumped for joy.
You see, visiting day can be fraught with peril. Not only are you driving for hours to get there, but guess what? You have to turn around and drive back that very same day! This can be unpleasant if you don’t enjoy spending the plurality of your waking hours in a car.
Additionally, many camps are located near a large superstore, which your child will insist “everyone” goes to, and all the spending we talked about in the last column will inadvertently be replicated on visiting day if you’re not careful.
Another activity could involve eating with your child. If you read my pre-Pesach column, you are familiar with my feelings on interacting with pushy people seeking food in a confined space. One year when we visited our boys at camp, we were the first ones in the dining hall for what we were told would be an “authentic camp experience.” Well, let me tell you, we sat there quietly and politely while seemingly every person from the Tri-State area got food and we starved. A couple of kind families stopped by the table to remark, “Wow, your family is so quiet. Where are you from?”
Finally, a tearful goodbye when Visiting Day is over can wreak havoc on the emotions of all involved. A few years ago, my daughter cried a lot when, after a few hours of sweating, spending, and schlepping, we ran to the car (just kidding, it was more of a slow jog) to return home. Luckily, her big sister was there and was able to distract her. One of my friends, however, who is actually a pediatric mental health professional, wasn’t so lucky: Her daughter almost ended up defecting from camp when she wouldn’t get out of the back seat of their minivan.
So, since I am clearly a failure at Visiting Day, I enlisted my favorite mother-daughter duo to give some advice.
“Don’t over-plan too much of what to do when you get there,” the mom recommended. “We like to mostly stay on the camp grounds and maybe do one outing to a Walmart-type store.
“Also, come on time so your kids don’t get stressed out and upset when they see other parents there way before you!” (That one is easier said than done if you live millions of miles from camp.)
Interestingly, the daughter said she does not like visiting day. “The point of camp is to get away from your home and your family. When they come to you it just gets a little annoying, because it’s hard to explain your camp life, and meeting your counselors is always awkward! Especially when other kids don’t have their parents come they feel left out,” she said.
“I personally don’t like the idea, but there are pros,” she continued. “Parents can take you out, bring you stuff you forgot, and you can show them all the cool stuff about camp.”
The wise teenage girl, above, who has gone to camp for many years, brings up a good point. Ask your kids if they even want you to come! It’s possible they will be just as happy (or happier) if you skip it. Most camps take kids whose parents can’t come on a fun trip that day. Your kids may be perfectly content with that. It’s not a bad thing to meet your kid’s friends, see her bunk, and get a sense of whether she is okay. But it can be just fine if you don’t. And remember, camp will call you if something is big-time wrong with your kid.
If you didn’t discuss pros and cons of visiting day before you put your kid on the bus, ascertain your child’s tone in her letters and see how it goes. Maybe plan to go the first year, but explain that in subsequent years you may not be able to. Or you might find that you really enjoy going! Then you can write me a letter with your tips and tricks for next year.
All the best,