Family / Kids / Parenting

Going to Camp

I never went to summer camp. Just like we weren’t softball people, we weren’t camp people either. During the summer, we spent weekends at our cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks which is where I learned about poisonous snakes, poison ivy, mosquitos and sunburns. I also learned a lot about manual labor because my mother liked to work outside and the only thing she liked more than working outside was forcing me to work outside with her.

So, my summers were spent in the great outdoors but there was a serious lack of camp songs, s’mores and revelry. I didn’t have a s’more until adulthood and, when I finally did, I burned the marshmallow and it slid off the stick and onto my bare leg. Have you ever tried to get a sticky, burnt marshmallow off of your skin? It clings. Considering I have a scar from a s’more, it’s probably good that I never went to camp.

One of my best friends is a camp person though and five years ago, she suggested we send our sons to Camp Warren in Eveleth, MN. This past weekend, my friend and I took our sons up to camp for their fifth year (and her youngest for his first) and I got to see it for the first time.

There were earnest young men in purple polo shirts and canoes and cabins and carved camp signs and bunk beds and sailboats and lots of boys milling about in a big grassy field.

One of my son’s counselors led me to the nurse’s office to drop off some forms and then we visited his cabin and then we went back to the big open field to say goodbye. As we were leaving, the buses arrived and all the campers assembled to be assigned to their cabins. The camp director called out cabin names and there was rhythmic clapping and chants and I briefly wished I could stay and experience it all.

And then I remembered that I got to leave my son there! So, I nearly dragged my friend away.

I am not a camp person but I have become a camp parent and I know it can be hard to leave your kid at camp. For queer parents, it can be even harder because you are leaving your kid in an environment that is likely very mainstream. But, it’s a good thing and here is my advice to all you camp parents:

1. Trust that they are having a good time and enjoy your time away from them!

2. Write often but don’t be too sappy. Remember – you want them to want to stay there.

3. If you send treats, put them in a container to keep the mice at bay. Last year, the Camp Warren mice were chewing Big League Chew.

4. Trust your kids to navigate the “Should I tell people I have queer parents?” situation on their own. Yes, it will come up. Yes, it will be fine.

5. Do not promise your second child that you’ll take them camping as consolation because then you will have to go camping. This one is a reminder to myself for next year because I just made this mistake.

Now, let’s all gather ’round and sing camp songs! Wait – I don’t know any! Let’s sing Kanye instead!

See? That’s what happens to kids who don’t get to go to camp. They grow up to sing Kanye songs and they can’t make a lanyard.

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  1. As someone who went to many many camps and knows many many camp songs, this is what my toddler can sing:

  2. Ha! Maybe I’ll learn that one and can be retrofitted to be a camp kid.

  3. Oh man. Ironically, I just finished packing the final bags for our camping trip this weekend. I get to go solo for the first two days (as usual. Perks of being the SAH parent, eh?) so that’s a whole nother ball of awesome. BUT. They can get as messy as they want and I don’t have to say “go get clean” because we’re CAMPING. I like that perk.

    Also, one time, in high school, I was at a party and I caught my marshmallow on fire and I shook it to put it out which you SHOULD NOT DO because it MAY just fly off the stick and land on the arm of your sister (who you brought along because you are an awesome older sister who helps out her younger sister in high school). And it may burn her. A lot.

    The end.

  4. I love camp. I actually considered for several hours on my second trip up there this week that I would get a nursing degree so I could be the camp nurse.

  5. Oh man. Camp songs or Kanye songs. Hard. Decision.

  6. 6. Do NOT send a letter that ends with: “P.S. DON’T FORGET TO FLOSS!!” And then do NOT include 8 inches of dental floss inside the envelope. That’s what my mother did. Often.

  7. I loved camp. Except for this one time I fell off the top bunk and landed on my head and threw up and couldn’t remember my name. But I’m sure I was fine and the camp made a great decision in keeping me there and not calling my parents to come get me.

  8. I had a complicated relationship to overnight camp, but mostly loved it. Still, though, I have a recurring dream in which I find myself back there, having committed to be a counselor for two months with all the 17-year-olds, and I’m all like, “But I have kids! And a job!I’m a grown-up!” And they won’t let me out of my dream contract.

  9. Pingback: TGIF Video: Camp It Up! In double-whammy video goodness! | VillageQ

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