The Canteen is a tribute to all things Jewish sleepaway camp. Hosted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), this blog is written by campers, alumni, parents, and camp professionals and is a place to talk about parenting, camp fun, projects, crafts, recipes, and more – all tied back to Jewish holidays, traditions and, of course, camp!
Lauri Exley lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son.
It’s February! For some, that means goodbye to failed New Year’s Resolutions, yearning for warmer weather, and seeing hearts, chocolate, and roses everywhere you look. For parents, it means it’s time to start planning for summer. Do we send her to a day camp all summer? Do we enroll him in sports camp? Do we send them away to sleep-away camp? What are their best friends doing? Do we plan a family vacation, and if so, do we schedule it around camp, or schedule camp around the vacation? While the kids are counting down the days until summer, the parents are already stressing out. I’m starting to understand why some people enjoy year-round school.
I am a mom of two: Miss B is four years old, and Mr. Awesome (yes, he is) is 18 months. We’re in a weird transition year. Miss B is off to Kindergarten next year, which is a whole other bag of stress, and Mr. Awesome is starting preschool in the fall. While he is too young for most camps, his preschool provides a weekly camp to prepare them for the Fall. Easy enough. However, Miss B is an entirely different story. She will graduate from Pre-K in May and while I will probably enroll her in the preschool camp for a few weeks, she is involved in so many different activities, that I feel I need to keep her involved in those throughout the summer.
I don’t remember there being so many options when I was a kid. As a young kid, I went to my synagogue’s camp every year. As I got older, I just spent the summer hanging out with friends. I think it was the summer going into seventh grade when all my friends were at camp or on family vacations and I was stuck at home, bored out of my mind. One of my best friends broke the news to me one day that she was going to be gone all summer. She was DREADING it! Her mom took a job as the nurse for a sleep-away camp and she had to go with. She promised she’d write every day and couldn’t wait to come back. She kept her word, maybe not every day, but I received at least five letters from her that summer. However, from the first letter I could tell, she definitely did NOT dread it. She already had crushes on boys (who were teaching her how to play guitar) and she was meeting some amazing people. She came home after that summer and could not stop talking about camp. She had changed – like something had turned on inside her – she was more adventurous and outgoing. It was a good change.
My friend insisted I join her the following year, and after much cajoling, my parents agreed. Off I went that following summer, to the happiest place on earth. No, not Disneyland, this was better. This was Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. I was so nervous. Although several of my friends (and my three cousins) were all there, it was new to me. I was away from my parents and in a new place. Writing about my experience, and subsequent summers thereafter, will take too long for this specific blog entry, so I will sum it up with this: my summers at camp provided me with a greater sense of Judaism and helped me establish friendships with my closest friends to date. In fact, it was one of my oldest camp friends who asked me to write this blog!
I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to go to sleep-away camp, where they can hopefully have similar experiences to mine. Until then, I will continue to spend my February trying to figure out what to do with them all summer!