We're packing for sleep-away camp. After a happy fortnight away last year, my son begged for a month at camp this summer. I am labeling T-shirts and sunscreen and toothpaste and checking off items from the extensive packing list a few at a time.
On Sunday, we drop him off with his duffel bag and sleeping bag, a pillow, 14 pairs of shorts and as many shirts, underwear, socks, swimsuits and everything a kid needs to survive until parents' weekend, when we'll go up and visit a laundromat.
I'm going to miss him (a lot). I suppose going away to summer camp is a great way for kids to practice their independence. I have a feeling it's equally useful for moms like me to trial letting go a little.
Last year, he came home with the email addresses of a half dozen new friends, the lyrics to more ridiculous camp songs than you can imagine, all of his clothes (curiously) neatly folded, socks balled together in pairs and a beginner's understanding of the rules of poker.
He wasn't sunburned. He liked the food. He didn't break any bones. And, the whole time, he didn't write a single letter! I had even gone so far so to address envelopes and stamp them. Not a word. I know better than to expect mail this summer and yet, I can't wait to write to him. I have to imagine it's cool to get mail at camp. I'll keep my notes brief and cheery, because I don't imagine he wants to read any long missives from his mother. I imagine he would enjoy some fun care packages though!
The camp care package can be a little bit vexing. There is a fine line between delighting and humiliating an 11-year-old boy. It would be obvious to include his favorite snacks, but food is forbidden.
Last year, I sent glowsticks for the kids in his cabin, and those were a hit. I also sent comic books and mad-libs with pencils to fill them out as well as playing cards. I have a set of dice ready to go this year. I have read that you can send almost anything in the mail as long as you address it and apply appropriate postage.
I plan to address a Frisbee with permanent marker, apply some postage and hope for the best. If that works, I think I'll attempt a foam football.
One friend suggested that I give him a battery-powered fan. I like that idea. Another advised clean socks and replacement soap.
Hilarious T-shirts might be good. I think he might have some fun with a fake spider or snake.
I've heard that sending embroidery floss is smart, as kids like to make friendship bracelets. But he isn't really the jewelry-making type. The only time I can imagine he will even look at this stuff is if there is a rain storm or something.
Even then, I think the counselors keep the kids busy. The care packages are as much for me as they are for him. I get that. He'll be fine.
Maybe the better question is: What do you put in a care package for a mom whose kids are going away to sleep away camp?
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.