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I Vow Never to Send My Kids to Sleep-Away Camp — Here’s Why

Dear kids,

I know that you are seven years old now, almost eight, and that some kids your age are going off to sleep-away camp this summer. They are going to have some of the best experiences of their lives, breathing in the fresh Maine air, making friends they will probably still know when they’re 40 and gaining skills and independence that will be invaluable, like tying special knots and knowing all the lyrics to “I Said a Boom Chicka Boom.” But sorry guys, you’re not going. In fact, if I have any say in it, you will never go to sleep-away camp.

Yesterday, I was there with both of you after day camp and school, and we had a pretty ordinary afternoon. Little Girl, when you got off the bus, I picked you up and spun you around and kissed your still-chubby cheeks like I always do. And Little Guy, when we went to pick you up from camp, one of your counselors told me that you bring an “awesome energy” to all of the activities. I loved hearing that you are doing that even though it was only the second day.

I know that at sleep-away camp, you would have the chance to learn and grow in new ways — but I’m a greedy mom, and I want you here. I want my time with you; hell, I’ve even given up weekend workouts for it. Twins, I want to be the one to empty your wet bathing suits and towels out of your musty backpacks, to slather you in sunscreen and spray your bug bites. I read some article that said you only get 940 weekends with your child before they turn 18 — and that figure blew my mind, because holy shit, almost half of ours are already goneSo even though you’re both busy during the day, and your dad and I are working, I want you guys around for those summer weekends — especially for those totally unexceptional but extremely precious weekday summer nights. 

I love when we get to do exciting stuff together, but I think I love it even more when I can just go to the grocery store with my two sidekicks. Little Guy, yesterday you insisted on pushing the cart and slammed it into my leg two times; I yelled at you in the cereal aisle, and Little Girl started to cry because she doesn’t like yelling, and I picked her up and held her and then told her to find Goya black beans and put them in the cart, and she did, and then everything was ok again 

Roasting marshmallows under the stars

The two of you asked to stop and get ice cream, and I pretended we weren’t going to, for about a second, and then a few minutes later the three of us were slurping up cold treats. Little Girl, I watched as you sat cross-legged on a stool, methodically eating your vanilla soft serve until you got to the bottom and stuffed a giant piece of the cone in your mouth. I left the store holding each of your sticky little kid hands, and it was pretty much the best feeling ever. 

Then we passed by the public pool on the way home, and you guys asked to go, and even though it was already dinner time and I hadn’t made anything, I said yes and we rushed home and put on bathing suits and went for an evening dip together.  

Little Girl, I didn’t really want to get my hair wet, but you kept running up to me, splashing me, urging me to play with you, and I couldn’t say no. The water was cold at first, but then it felt great and we played shark and I grabbed you as many times as I could before you swam away. 

Later that night, Little Guy, you showed me that you could see fireflies out of front window. We watched them together, and you asked me if we should catch them, and I said no, just enjoy their beauty; we watched them together for a few moments without saying any words, and then you went to bed. 

It’s the summer days and nights that are so very ordinary that are also so very perfect. I wouldn’t change them for the world. I’m sure a sleep-away camp could offer you STEM activities and archery and other stuff I can’t, but for now I’m keeping you here with me.

I know it’s probably pretty up in Maine, but you’re going to stay here in the suburbs of New Jersey so I can watch you check off your summer reading lists you got from the library — so I can sing songs to you before I tuck you in bed. Because there will be a time when we won’t do that stuff anymore. And to quote the great Steven Tyler: I don’t want to miss a thing. 



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