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Memo To My Kids At Camp:

Memo To My Kids At Camp:

Don't Call! Love, Mom


In most ways I'm a classic Jewish mother. If I'm cold, I tell my kids to put on sweaters. I make chicken soup on Friday nights. (It's good and good for you!) I worry more than I should. But I depart from the stereotypes in one significant way: I really am not interested in hearing from my kids every day when they are away at camp on the other side of the country.

And yet, they call. They call from the bus to tell me they are on the way back from the water park, but the reception is patchy up in the mountains and usually the call breaks up, requiring several more calls to complete the message. They call to say that while the showers are flooding the bunks, they are still having a great time. They call to tell me about the successful outing to Wal-Mart to get fly swatters and candy.

I had thought that going away to camp meant going away Look, I'll match my maternal love for my kids any day with any other mother on the planet. My kids are fabulous, smart, and even good-looking (objectively speaking). I am enormously grateful to be their mom. But I had thought that going away to camp meant going away, i.e., that my urban kids would revel in the freedom of being in the great outdoors, and parent-free, for one month. Meanwhile, we parents could learn to cope (in a small, measured dose) with an empty nest.

And unlike when the kids are home in Los Angeles, where I do worry when they are out too late, I am blissfully worry-free when my kids are at camp — until they call me at midnight from the bus somewhere in the Catskills Mountains. Then I think: They're on a dark and windy mountain road! Is the driver responsible, cautious, and still alert at this hour? When they call to report on the bug problem, I think: West Nile virus! Are they using the bug spray I packed? Ignorance is bliss, and I wish I weren't always so well informed.

Moreover, it turns out I am also expected to email my daughter several times a week. I had thought I was doing something special by writing her a real note card that had to be mailed with a stamp, but this didn't rate. "All the other parents" are busy emailing their campers, and so must I. G‑d knows what damage I might do to my child if she doesn't hear from me electronically every 48 hours. Talk about pressure!

The good news is that I absolutely must find something fun to do all by myself, not because I'm bored — just because this way I'll have something worth sharing on the next phone call.

Judy Gruen’s latest award-winning book is Till We Eat Again: A Second Helping. Read more of her work on her website.
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Mrs. RUTH KRIEGER August 2, 2009

Kids At Camp When my oldest daughter went to camp, she called two days later wanting to come home. "Mom! These bunks we sleep in don't have any air conditioning! There's no carpeting on the floors! You have to walk outside to the bathroom!"
My sons went to camp and didn't want to come home! Six weeks later they returned. Their suitcase was just as I packed it! I threw what they were wearing in the trash. I had to soak them in a tub for hours and make them scrub with Boraxo, an industrial soap. At least when I cleaned them up I could see I got the right kids back! Reply

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