Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MILESTONE: The Boy Goes To Sleepaway camp

Well, he's off for 14 days of non-stop adventure at Jewish sleepaway camp.  He's going to Camp Ramah in upstate Wisconsin, about 6 and a half hours north of here. We just dropped him off at the bus in Skokie, and the adventure has begun (for all of us!)

When I was a kid I went to a Jewish sleepaway camp as well, Camp Avoda, and had a great time.  I think I went right around his age-- and the first time my brother and I went for a month, and then after that I went for 2 months for a couple of more years before I wanted to go to basketball camp with my friends, and so didn't go to the Jewish camp anymore.  (Wow, just looked at the prices for Camp Avoda, and they are about1.3 times what we are paying for Ramah.  And I blanched when I saw OUR prices.  Don't let anyone fool you--Camp is expensive!)

Avoda is an all boys camp, and Ramah is mixed gender camp.  Wonder if that plays into the pricing?  Or just midwest vs. east coast kind of thing?

Here's the promo for Camp Ramah.

At Camp Avoda, kids pray in an outdoor chapel.  
This camp is far more religious than we are, and I think praying before and after every meal, eating kosher, discussing holiness, celebrating Shabbat, and learning about Judaism will be good for him.  I know it was for me.  It's where I learned a lot of the Jewish prayers (you sing them before and after every meal) and also got a sense of Jewish identity.  And really, it's where I started grappling with some philosophical issues as well about meaning and purpose.  And it was the first time I had hung out with a bunch of kids just like me.

While I am all about diversity and knowing about other cultures and ideas, I also think that knowing who you are and where you come from are important.  And bonding with kids just like you (especially when you are in a decided minority in your school) is also important.  When I grew up, I think I was one of only a handful of Jewish kids in my school- and even in high school- out of a class of 500, I doubt more than 10 of us were Jewish.  My son's elementary school has numbers that might be a little higher, but not much.

As I recall, I learned a lot more than just the prayers in sleepaway camp, including the joys of volleyball (newcome, the first year, where you got to catch the ball instead of hit it); tetherball, tennis, and what leeches were (we were on a freshwater lake in MA, and if you went swimming too far, you'd end up covered in leeches!)  And gimp bracelets, color war, and handmade wallets, and bug juice, and the joy of catching a frog for the first time (I was a sheltered city kid!) I also went to one of my first plays on a field trip there, and I think I acted in a play as well.  It's a time for growing up - a "Growth experience"  and I am so looking forward to finding out how it went for him!

My son (2nd from left) and his two friends and the bus director.
Getting ready to go on a giant camp adventure!
We packed and packed and packed and labeled every piece of clothing he owns (and several that he doesn't) and bought batteries for the flashlight and batteries for the other thing and batteries for the batteries.  His stuff fit into two large duffel bags. I also packed an old ipod (music players are allowed, but not ones with screens or connectivity) and some audio books and some regular books.  He will not be hurting for things to do this summer!

The bigger question is:  what are my wife and I going to do with our free time?  (Other than fret about the boy?) This is sort of an empty nest preview, and I'm not sure what we are going to do.  Go on dates?  Sleep in?  Have sex all day?  (Let's not go crazy!)

My guess is not much will change, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or just sad.

 It's a little concerning-- I no longer have a ready-made excuse about why I was less than productive today!

What about you?  What happened when your kids went to camp?  Funny war stories encouraged in the comments below.

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