August 7 13

When I went to overnight camp, we wrote letters home three times a week. For my parents, this was their only form of communication with me. I was gone for four weeks each summer (sometimes eight!) and my mom would have to sit and wait by the mailbox for any hints, signs, news from camp. She didn’t know what my friends looked like, if I was wearing clean clothes, or if I was even wearing a smile.

Now, it’s much easier to stalk your kids  get a sense of what your kids are doing at camp.

Every evening at around 10pm, I open up the camp website, login, and go through about 200 new photos from that day. I can see my kids in the lake, rock climbing, eating, hanging out with their friends.

I can see when they are eating s’mores and when they are on overnight trips or even when they have color war. I can see when they have bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. And I can see smiles. They are happy. THEY ARE HAPPY.

camp pictures

I can see, though, how this system can quickly become more of a problem than a solution.

“Why isn’t my son in any pictures today? Is he sick? Is he homesick? Is he unhappy? Has he run away from camp? WHY?”

“Why does my daughter look upset in that photo. Does she hate her activity? Did she have a fight with her besties? Is she sleeping enough? Is she eating enough?”

“Why does my son wear that same minecraft hoodie in every photo? Is he changing his clothes? Brushing his teeth?”

I’m sure that camps get phone calls from hysterical parents demanding immediate answers. I’m sure that moms and dads read way too much into every single photo they see, I’m sure they inspect each shot with a fine-toothed comb, making sure that (among other things) their child is using her neatly packed fine-toothed comb.

I look at these photos as just a little teaser, a little glimpse, a little taste of camp. I love seeing them, but I don’t over-analyze.

I see their letters the same way—little snippets into what’s actually going on at camp. The truth is, really, that I don’t want to know everything. I want them to have their own experiences. After all, isn’t that why I sent them away in the first place? To let them have that little taste of independence?

As long as they are not calling me from the camp to tell me that my children have run away and have tried to hitchhike home, I’m happy with whatever is going on, whether or not I get to see any of it or hear about any of it.

Emily sends me long letters filled with stories and tidbits about her friends and her bunk and her activities and what clothing she is wearing. She writes poetically, and writes exactly the way she speaks. Josh sends me jokes that he thinks I would appreciate. Counselor: Name a book written by Herzl? Me: THE BOOK OF MORMON. Counselor: I’ll give you extra points for being funny!

emilyatcamp joshatcamp

From her, that’s all I need.

From him, that’s all I need.

…and I can worry about the minecraft hoodie when he gets home. Or maybe not even at all. 


  1. I am very glad that Josh’s notes are so much better!

    And you get to see them tomorrow!


    Comment by Kristabella on August 7, 2013
  2. They’re at camp in the States, right? I don’t know of any Canadian camps that are longer than a week, and therefore have never thought of some of the stuff you just mentioned. Like, who DOES do their laundry? And why do they go for so long? (I would have LOVED that as a kid, my camps were only a week long.)


    alimartell replied on

    yes. they are in the states… but I know lots of camps in Ontario that are 4, 6, 8 weeks etc. I really think it just depends on the camp?

    My kids have laundry once a session. The bring a laundry bag and it gets sent out—and it mostly all comes back. Heh.


    Jen Wilson replied on

    Ah, gotcha!! Even at week-long camps where Kaylie’s laundry *doesn’t* get sent out, it still *mostly* all comes back. ;)


    Comment by Jen Wilson on August 7, 2013
  3. I’m glad they’re both having such a good time, and that their very different letters reflect that.


    ali replied on

    It actually is kind of awesome to see how different they are, even in something simple like their letters home. They have always been exact opposites—basically from the day Josh was born.


    Comment by alyinponderland on August 7, 2013
  4. I didn’t get a chance to comment yesterday but I laughed today when I saw the article Marinka shared on her fb page because I knew you wrote this the day before. I would love the reassurance of seeing pictures of my kids at camp… I think I would be glued to my computer! I’d be the biggest stalker. Letters home would be so special. No idea when I’ll be brave enough to send them away to camp for a week or more…


    Comment by Loukia on August 8, 2013

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