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The Accidental Camp Mommy

R.C. Steif

The Camp Mommy idea grows on me. Maybe I really should keep her home?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

accidental camp

Photo: Shutterstock

No one is to blame, yet I am left holding the bag. And it’s heavy. 

Three weeks into day camp, I realize that my seven-year-old daughter Shaindy isn’t doing well. Nothing wrong with the day camp. Nothing wrong with my daughter. Just not a good fit. 

“Why can’t she just stay home?” my husband asks as I flounder for a solution. 

“Because. Just because.” Am I flabbergasted by his suggestion or just maddened by it? 

“Day camp isn’t school,” he persists.

 “Did you forget that I work? What am I supposed to do with her all day?”

“She can play with the baby while you work.”

“Very funny. The baby sleeps while I work. And plays quietly with the toys when he’s awake. He doesn’t ask me to type out messages on the screen for him to read, or ask me a million questions about each icon.”

“Take a summer break.”

“Very funny,” I repeat. “I have commitments. I can’t just take off at a whim.”

I’m hopeful that things will work out with my daughter. They don’t. As a last-ditch effort at a lost case, I speak to the camp directors. Though they are polite and receptive (as I hope I am), by the time I put down the phone, I know I don’t want my daughter in their camp.

TheCampMommyidea grows on me. Maybe I really should keep her home? I’ll buy her some crafts, she’ll play with the baby.… I’ll squeeze in my work while she’s crafting, and while Hubby eats supper and entertains the kids, and after everyone is in bed. And I won’t accept any more assignments until school starts.


Photo: Shutterstock

Instead of just thinking about it, I sound out the idea. “Maybe I should keep her home?”

My husband shrugs.

 “But if she stays home, I’m also keeping Chaya’la home. Shaindy will go nuts if she’s by herself.”

“Not a bad idea, but since you’ll be doing all the work, it’s totally your decision.”

No accolades. No round of applause. I should’ve read that as a harbinger for things to come.

We speak to the potential campers, and they express enthusiasm at the prospect of Mommy as head counselor for their day camp of two. Their enthusiasm sets off my own, and I anticipate a glorious few weeks ahead, full of family time, crafting, swimming, nature walks — and sleeping in a bit late.

Day one. After breakfast and davening, I involve my campers in setting up the planned activities. At least I have no advance prep time.

The indoor treasure hunt goes off quite well, and then we move outdoors for a water maze. A neighbor passes by. I tense. I haven’t told anyone about my decision to keep my girls home. I don’t want to be forced to offer explanations and justifications about why I’m doing this.

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