Motherhood

What Happens to Your Marriage When Your Kids Go to Camp

On Summer Camp and Marriage

Did you go to sleepaway camp as a kid? The friends I know who went to camp say it was a transformative experience, but I’m also curious about the parents’ point of view. What’s it like to be a temporary empty nester? To have a sudden break from parenting? To have your time become your own again? We spoke to MZ Goodman, whose children are at camp this summer. (“I’m alone with my husband for the first time in 10 years,” she said.) Here’s what it’s like…


My daughter Flora is seven, and my son Lex is 10. I told them it was their choice to go to camp for four weeks or seven weeks, and he said four, and she said seven. My daughter wants in on all the action. She’s a crackerjack and wasn’t daunted at all, and my son was nervous but reassured by having his younger sister there. She’s the youngest peanut there.

It’s the camp that my husband went to, a super chill little place on Lake Placid. It’s very low-fi — there’s sailing, taking care of animals, hiking, all sorts of crafts. Every day the counselors present a series of options, so the kids can choose what they want to do. I started going to camp when I was in first grade. Some of my closest friends are people I met there; and my husband feels the same way.

So many moments of motherhood are happy and sad at the same time. I’m happy for my kids, obviously, and happy for me to have a little solitude and peace and quiet, but at the same time, I definitely went into their rooms the day they left and smelled their pillows. We’d stripped their beds, and the rooms were totally neat — and I could imagine them away at college in two minutes and was freaking out. I wanted to cry. They’re really not here. And they really won’t be here, and that’s not so far off. It feels like the beginning of the end. Bittersweet is such a clichéd word, but it’s exactly what it is.

We get a weekly update. My son’s first letter said simply, “I am here. I miss you.” My daughter’s letters have been much more narrative about herself, which fits her personality. Here’s one in its entirety:

“Earlier today I took a shower and got soap in my eyes. And I had lunch on top of Mount Rooster Comb. Happy Fourth of July!”

Some parts are really nice: You eat much healthier food. I’m eating just one dinner, not my “pre-dinner” of meatballs while they’re eating their dinner. I haven’t done any laundry since they left. I only ran the dishwasher once this week! We’ve also been catching up on TV. We’ve been watching The Night Manager. It’s great.

One night at the beginning, my husband came home from work at 10 p.m., and I was in our bedroom reading and he walked into the apartment and yelled, “HELLO!!!!!” And he said, “I just wanted to do that because I wasn’t waking anybody up.”

One of the hardest things for me about motherhood has been losing my alone time. I’m an introvert and really, really need to be by myself to restore my energy. So, I’m grateful to have this time. I’m going back to reading. I’m reading Quiet, which has been on my bookshelf for years. I’m reading A Little Life and Being Mortal.

My husband and I made a rule to try not to talk about the kids all summer. (It was inspired by a Modern Love about a couple who made a similar rule.) I have to say, we’ve been having so much fun. At the beginning, it was like, what do you talk to your husband about for four straight weeks when your kids aren’t there?! So much of what we usually talk about is the logistics, who’s doing what, what time will you be home. And now just having time at the end of the day to talk about anything is really nice. By the end of the summer, I think it will have been a formative experience for us.

When my friend went to camp as a child, her parents actually separated while she was away. And a few other friends told me similar stories. You see why it happens: You look at each other and you’re either really grateful to have downtime together or you look at each other and think holy crap!

The sleep thing is also excellent. Ten years into having kids, I’m used to sleeping with one ear open. But right now no one is going to wake up sick or crying. The quality of sleep is amazing. You actually go to sleep.

But there are little moments. My daughter finds a tremendous amount of change on the street, and I’m commanded to walk around the city with my eyes down to find coins. I’m so accustomed to it and I found 50 cents this week and wanted to call and tell her!

My mom always said to me: It’s a blink of an eye. (And I’d say, “Stop being so sentimental.”) But it’s exactly that.

MZ Goodman

The day they dropped the kids off at camp.

MZ Goodman

During visiting day, which MZ said was “delicious.”


Did you ever go to summer camp? Do (or will) your kids?

P.S. What marriage means, and keeping up a relationship after kids.

  1. Cat says...

    I love this post! My husband and I actually met at a summer camp (as counselors) and can’t wait to send our daughter there in about 8 years ;-)

  2. Polly says...

    Sounds like such a wonderful time to reconnect with your husband, love it!

  3. Dani says...

    I find this post sort of endlessly interesting, because I had very different types of summers as a kid from the camp experience. My mom was a teacher and had summers off, and we were members of a local outdoor swimming pool that was only open in the summers. My siblings and I all swam for the summer swim league, and we competed with other pools in the area. Basically, the pool was our babysitter all summer long–get there early in the morning and practice by age group, meaning for three hours my siblings and I took turns racing and alternatively playing with other kids on the deck, swim meets twice a week, playing at the pool all day long.

    While I do really want my kids to have the “summer camp experience,” and I so wanted that myself at times when I was a kid, I also want them to experience the “at-home-make-your-own-fun” kind of summers that I had. I have nothing but the fondest of memories from my summers running around outside and playing at the neighborhood pool with my siblings, our parents trailing behind us.

  4. Julie chambers says...

    I live in the uk and sent my son to camp in pa when he was 13. He was their first English kid. He loved it and continued going for many years. Most of my friends didn’t get it but he always says it’s the best thing I did for him. Next summer his younger brother by 10 years will be going.

  5. Laura says...

    I started going to camp when I was 11, and I’m still involved in the same camp 17 years later – now, as a volunteer programming director for a week. When I was in college, I worked for the camp as a summer staff member, and those summers are some of the very dearest, most treasured times of my life. The camp I grew up going to is only for a week at a time – there are 10 week-long sessions per summer – so you get to be away, but it isn’t for too long. The friends I’ve made at camp throughout the years are unlike any other – in some ways, I feel like they know the realest version of me. I also met my husband at camp, and we agree that camp was one of the most influential experiences in our lives. If we have kids, we hope to send them to the exact same camp that has been so important to us.

  6. Nora says...

    Somewhat unrelated question: who’s in the picture at the top of the post? I love it.

  7. Katie says...

    My daughters (7 and 5) were gone with family for a full week this summer. My husband and I painted 3 rooms in our house. We ate meals when we felt like it and ran errands at 9:30pm. It was really awesome. And relieving to know we’ll be just fine when the kids are grown and gone. We really enjoyed the time together. I just wish we had had a little more because we worked so hard for most of it. Not a lot of down time.

  8. My husband and I were both big sleepaway camp people–him in Maine and me in MIssissippi! Our big girl is 4 1/2 and doing day camp now, which she loves. She’s incredibly goofy and outgoing and I’m sure she will love camp as much as we did, but our kids are going to be almost 5 years apart so it will be some time before they’re both gone at once!!

  9. Elizabeth says...

    Am I the only one who gets heart palpitations reading this? I don’t think of myself as overprotective at all, but I cannot imagine sending my seven-year-old to any sleepaway camp, much less seven weeks of it!

    • Hala says...

      You’re not the only one!

  10. I went to camp one summer, and I remember wishing my parents could afford it every summer. I missed them, but I loved it! For now my daughter is only 3.5 and she’s our only so I could not even imagine sending her off anywhere. But I’m grateful we will have the ability to give her the option (even if it requires a whole bottle of wine the first night!).

    Xo
    Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  11. sarah says...

    camp is everything. i went to the same sleepaway camp that my mom & her siblings attended in the 60s/70s. the experience is unlike any other–the first taste of freedom from your parents & an extended time away from home, alone. i was/am shy, so it was challenging for me, to say the least. the first summer was not easy, but i learned & grew so much from the experience, returning for an 8-week session the following year. nothing makes me more nostalgic than camp.

    bonus: i met my future husband there, when we were both 15. :)

  12. Jennie says...

    I really appreciate hearing from a fellow introverted mom. I have the perspective that raising a child when you identify as an introvert is a very unique experience.

    • MZ Goodman says...

      Jennie: if you haven’t already, read Susan Cain’s Quiet. I got so much out of it.–mz

  13. kelly says...

    I don’t think i could ever let my (future) kids go to camp for such a long time!!! Maybe a week? Day camp, for sure. Its probably a control issue and wanting to protect them due to my own childhood trauma. Im not a mom yet so i cant grasp the full situation of bring a full time, always consumed mom. But, I think every family should do what works for THEM!! Thanks for sharing. I love this blog.

  14. Isabelle says...

    Wow, this was so great to read. My daughter is only 4 and she’s not at camp yet, but this summer our family moved from Edmonton to Toronto and I have two three-week chunks where I’m all alone and she is with my husband and his family on the East Coast (I have to stay in Toronto to work and he is working in Nova Scotia). I have to say it’s been weird – like the author says, I relish the alone time but also miss having her in my daily life! It’s different because my husband isn’t here either so I’m really ALL ALONE. My mom grew up in the 50s in a family of 5 kids and they all went to camp every summer for 8 weeks. I always thought that was weird, and I still think 8 weeks is too long for me at this point, but I now see the appeal!

  15. I spent over ten years at summer camp going for up to eight weeks at a time as both a camper and a counselor – I loved it. It was without question the most important formative experience of my childhood. My boys are only 2 and 4 but I’m already talking with them about summer camp. I think they’re going to love it. One thing that was special for me was that I went to camp with my cousins. My mom had the brilliant idea to send us all to camp because we lived across the country from each other. It was such a wonderful way for us to be together and to this day my camp cousins are my best friends. We’re hoping our boys’ cousins go to camp with them too but we were also thinking it would be a nice thing to do with friends’ kids too — a way for them to be connected with the kids of our best friends from college, etc.

  16. Vicki says...

    My daughter started sleep-a-way camp for three weeks every summer when she was 8. She would do Swim Team at the beginning to the summer then go to camp. This year, at 17 she went back for the 7 week C-I-T session to train to be a counselor/lifeguard next summer. She is an only child and we are all three very close. She misses us, we miss her, but she constantly thanks us for letting her have a second home at camp. She talks about camp all year. She grows up a little each summer, in terms of her confidence and independence, but comes home with the silliness one can go only get living with 50 other kids.
    For us, its a mini vacation too, time to connect, talk, eat a non-dinner, way less laundry. It’s given us a snapshot of what life will be like in two years when she heads off to college. Our empty nest will be fine and and little bird will stay close and visit often, in part because her wings have grown strong from short times away at camp!

  17. Linda says...

    I loved summer camp as a kid. I would only go for a week at a time, but it was such a wonderful time of being in the great outdoors with friends and deepening my relationship with God. Irreplaceable memories for sure!! Now my kids go, but only for a week. We love doing summer vacations and other summer traditions as a family every year. We recently bought a used 4×4 vehicle and have been taking into the dunes for some “dune diving” and bonfires this year. :)

  18. As I’m heading back to school this fall (law school!), reverting back to quick and tasty cereal breakfasts on the reg doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all :) yay!

    • whoops! that was meant for the cereal post! loved reminiscing on my days in summer camp while reading this parents’ perspective, though :)

  19. Caroline, UK says...

    As a brit we havent really got anything like this. The closest I came was a day camp that I went to for 5 days in a row when I was about 13. I was there from 9 till 5 and then went home for dinner.
    If there is anything I would love to have done it’s a sleepover summer camp. I used to love watching American films and programmes and reading books about it. Did anyone watch Bug Juice? I wanted to go so badly after watching that from my sofa during the dreary weather of my UK school holiday.

  20. Sandra says...

    I went to camp, but for only a week each summer. Maybe I will change my mind when my son is older (he’s 5), but I can’t imagine him going for longer than that and missing so much of the summer with him! Plus, we now live in a small town that is close to a beach, so summer here is a lot like camp. :-)

  21. Drasa says...

    Wow how timely. My four children are at camp this week (first time the camps have aligned all at once) and my husband and I are alone. For the first time. In our own house. For a week. After 20 years of marriage.
    We have been looking forward and dreading this for awhile. I joked to a friend that Monday night would find us curled up in the fetal position crying for our babies. :(
    We are on the west coast – so camp is only a week. They have all attended before and really love it. They look forward to it all year.
    And so far so good. Apparently we still like each other! Haha. But have to admit – that I feel like the writing is on the wall and we really have an opportunity to rediscover what makes us individually and together happy and fulfilled.

    • MZ Goodman says...

      I hope it’s a great time for you, Drasa!–mz

  22. Catherine says...

    I just picked my oldest son (turned 10 at camp) from 3.5 weeks away. His first words were ” can I stay full session (7 weeks)” next year? He is a definite camp person and loves all of the bonding, activities, comraderie and independence. Last summer I had a really hard time with him being gone. I thought it was going to be a break with only one child, husband and job to deal with. I felt like I was missing an arm, the whole time. It did make me appreciate the subtleties of our family and noticed/ appreciated them throughout the year when he returned. This summer his absence was still sad (especially on his birthday) but I was not in mourning the whole time and worried very little. Now to see if my younger son will join him next summer!

  23. Thanks so much for sharing! I never went away to camp but my brother and sisters did and enjoyed it. We have twin 5-year-olds and they’re not quite ready for sleep away camp. Although my hubby and I would welcome the alone time, I think we’d miss them way too much to have them away for that long. Wow, this parenting thing is tough! Although we are doing everything we can to teach our children to be independent, I can’t imagine them every leaving our home (but I know they need to).

    XOXO, Amy @ Jeans and a Tea
    http://www.jeansandatea.com

  24. Samantha says...

    I met my husband at summer camp, who’s grandparents met at the same camp, as did his aunt and uncle, not to mention countless friends! My closest friends to this day are my “summer sisters” because that’s truly what you, a family summer after summer. As a kid, it was truly the place where you could be yourself and where you learn literally everything about life. And as adults sending their kids to camp, I know our friends cherish that time time with their spouses when they can travel, relax, just enjoy each other!

  25. i love this, though it seems like a far way off with our first being only 1!

  26. Courtney says...

    I didn’t go to camp until my last two years of high school. I had always wanted to, but my mom had summers off so there was neither the money nor the need. Now, our little girl has some big allergies, so if we send her at all we will have to be extremely picky. I would love to send her to camp though. What a good time it was.

  27. MissEm says...

    I hated summer camp – am I the only one?? I loved the lake and the hikes and the activities, but the relationships were so challenging. I always felt terribly out of place. Too many beautiful, popular Christians with a pecking order of holiness (Christian camp). I did look up to the girls that were able to somehow be strongly and delightfully themselves and still participate in camp life somehow outside of the cliques, so that was worth a lot. Anyway, I’d find it hard to send my kids away lest they have a similarly experience.

    • MissEm says...

      that said, 4 weeks of uninterrupted sleep and meandering conversations sounds heavenly, even if I would miss them (and I WOULD)!

    • ::Raises hand:: I also went to a Christian summer camp and was so surprised by the cliques and hierarchies. I loved my first summer but the couple years after that were terribly hard and I felt so isolated and homesick. I stopped going after three years and got involved in other summer activities. That said, if my kids want to go to sleep-away camp someday I would certainly support it. Just my experience : )

  28. Cola says...

    MZ – Camp Treetops? I was at CTT 73-75. Best summers of my life. All my kids went and my youngest daughter is there this summer. So lucky!

  29. Annie says...

    So glad that someone mentioned Alford Lake Camp! I’m a former counselor and think the world of Alford Lake and its values and programs. They really create magical summers and the campers grow so much and gain so much independence! I was so proud to work there. Maine is also a great state.

    (Also, I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to see the campers part with their technologies and ideas about how they have to dress or look as young girls… those things don’t matter too much in the woods; you are free to play in the dirt and sing songs really loudly with your tent mates in your pajamas… so great for girls!)

  30. Melissa says...

    I went to sleep away camp and my parents own it! It’s in Maine and was some of the best times of my life. http://Www.indianacres.com

  31. Emily says...

    Great article! Question: anyone with thoughts about what’s better – all girls/all boys camp or mixed? Both good? Depends on the age?

  32. Always love reading your insights on marriage, esp for someone like me who is a newlywed. Keep them coming!

    Abby | Life in the Fash Lane

  33. Annie says...

    When I went to overnight camp for a week every summer as a kid, I had not a single thought about what my parents might be doing while I was gone! Ha! My kids have gone to my parents’ overnight for 1-2 nights once a month or so since they were 2, and it is such a relaxing feeling of space to breath and catch up for a couple of days. It is good for them and us, and makes everyone appreciate everyone else a little more!

  34. Anna says...

    Even though both my husband and I went to camp and fully intend to send our kids to camp, I have to say that the thought of it makes me a bit sick to my stomach! Granted, my kids are 2.5 yrs and 9 months old so it’s impossible to imagine them in that kind of environment. But mostly, I just cannot bear the thought of them being away from me! And… it also sounds amazing to have some time and space to myself. Oh, parenting. Why must you be so challenging, rewarding and exhausting all at the same time? I just love those little buggers too much!

  35. Sabrina says...

    I went to summer camp as a kid and then went on to work at camp for years both overnight and day camp! I obviously LOVE the whole camp experience. Just last week I sent my oldest (5) to his first week of YMCA Day Camp. It was a totally different experience as a parent. I was so worried about him. Was he having fun? Was he safe? And this is at a camp I used to work at for 3 summers. Turns out, he had a wonderful time and keeps asking when he can go back. I hope I’m okay when I send him to overnight camp someday. I’m becoming that neurotic parent that used to drive me crazy as a counselor. ha!

  36. Laura says...

    i started going to sleepover camp at 6 – i LOVED it. i went for the next 10 years, and at 16 worked as a counselor for the summer. it completely changed my life, there were years that i truly counted down until i could go back to camp! I learned so much about myself and if we have children, camp will start early and go long :) i met one of my oldest friends there – we were put in the same cabin at 13, and now, at 27, she’s been in my life longer than not! i honestly believe that camp is sort of a way of life. it’s a beautiful tradition of independence, self reliance and exploration to pass down – my mother went to camp all her life, and it was so important to her to pass that on.

    • Really well put. And I fully agree.

  37. Lauren says...

    My girls, 15 and 11, go all summer (8 weeks!) to an amazing camp called Farm & Wilderness in Plymouth, Vermont. We live in Chicago. It’s amazing for them to get to learn all that they’re capable of and it’s wonderful for my husband and I to have some quiet connected time. They’ve been going since they each turned 9 and we all benefit tremendously.

  38. Emily White says...

    Would she mind sharing what the name of the camp is? I’d love to send my kids!

  39. Carly says...

    This was a beautiful post and I wasn’t going to write this because I don’t want to be the buzz kill, but here goes… Growing up I went to many different religious camps, summer ballet intensive programs, and girls camps. I had truly beautiful experiences and they made me open minded and independent. When I was in college I worked at a very prestigious summer camp as administrative staff (all of the campers were celebrity children or royalty from other countries), because I was administration I got to see a lot of what happened behind the scenes (counsellors caught looking at child porn, directors (whose family was there with him) having affairs with cleaning crew, teen girls bullying and assaulting other girls)…and honestly after that experience I would hesitate to send my children. If I do one day decide to send them, I would make sure it was a camp where the children had responsibilities and chores–not just trust funds.

  40. Katherine says...

    Beginning the summer going into fourth grade, my best friend and I went to summer camp for eight summers at an all-girls camp in Casco, ME called Camp Arcadia, and it truly changed my life. The camp sits on a lake and girls live in cabins without electricity and technology (I can’t image what it’s like today in the iPhone age!) and wear uniforms of blue shorts and blue t-shirts everyday. We participated in activities like swimming, canoeing, and camp craft (building fires, tying knots, chopping wood) and sang songs during lunch and dinner each day. This past summer was our camp’s 100th anniversary, and our age group (25-year-olds, who have kept touch through the years via a Facebook thread) all returned to stay in a cabin together. There’s nothing like sleeping in a wooden cabin by a lake with the waves crashing and loon calls at night. I hope one day that I’ll have daughters that I can send there. If you’re interested in some all-boys camps, we always had dances with Camp Agawam and Camp Winona.

  41. Tamara says...

    This must be an east coast thing? Here on the west coast, nobody I know ever went for longer than a week. Many people that work sign their kids up for back to back week long camps, usually day camps until they are older than 10, and kids are always home on weekends. I can’t imagine my kids being gone for the whole summer. Sounds both glorious and terrifying!

    • Brianna says...

      The only west coast folk I know (and I’m from California and live in Nevada) who send their kids to camp for the entire summer are Jewish people. It’s the law (not really, but it sure seems like it among some families). My brother and I are the only kids in our entire family who didn’t go to some kind of camp.

    • Liz says...

      Too funny, I’m grew up in the Midwest and my husband and I were *just* talking about this a couple of days ago. I only went for a week. No one went longer than that! He went for four or six weeks. His idea was that it must have stemmed from wanting to get your kids out of the city for the summer, which makes sense to me.

    • Stella says...

      I was thinking the same thing! Here is Texas, there might be some that are longer than a week but most are church-oriented, week long camps. I’ll have to look into some of these camps in the east because they sound amazing!

    • Haley says...

      I’m from BC, but I think most of Canada is similar in that summer camps run for about a week in length. My principal-teacher husband never went to summer camp and can’t fathom sending our kids away for a week. I would love them to have the experience; this said, I can’t imagine sending them for a whole summer!

  42. Erin says...

    I went to sleepaway camp for 11 years! I began when I was 11 years old, and ended my last summer as a counselor at 21. It was the most incredible, life changing experience and my best friends are those I met at camp. I cannot wait to send my future children to camp to have that opportunity. Camp Lifer!! <3

  43. Laura says...

    I’m from Northern Ireland, and have spent 2 summers working in camps in the states. I love it so much that I take my paid vacation to go and volunteer at camp! I can’t think of anything like it at home, but I think it’s the best thing for kids! I truly love camp and my experiences working as a counsellor are some of the best times of my life. The stories and memories that I have of the kids are the best, especially their reactions to international counsellors!
    Maybe when I’m married and have children, I’ll take a holiday back to Boston and let the kids have a fun week at camp!

  44. Kate says...

    I went to summer camp as a camper from 5 yrs to 16 yrs and went back as a counselor. It was transformative for me. I even met my husband there! Our daughters will definitely go to camp!

  45. We call it Grownup Camp, and ours just wrapped up on Saturday. I wrote about it here: http://www.thirdstoryies.com/2016/07/12/grownup-camp/

    Our girls are six years apart in age, so even if the older one is away at camp, we still have the younger one around. But we do have at least one week, sometimes two, where the girls go to their grandparents’ home in another state.

    It’s truly the loveliest of weeks. We’re still working, but honestly, that’s part of the fun. It’s different from vacation, where you have a different routine, but you’re still figuring things out for everyone in the family. Grownup camp is a regular week full of regular things – but it’s a week where we only have to figure things out for OURSELVES. Bliss.

    I make lists during the year of the little things that I say “I wish…” to. Like running in the morning when it’s still a little cooler outside, rather than the hot afternoons after work – the only time I have when my kids are home and I’m in charge of school dropoffs. Meeting my husband for lunch, knowing I can stay a little later at work to make up for it. Talking about the most random things over dinner – like our in-depth research into the floor plans of 10 Downing Street last week! Gripping, I tell you. Walking around naked if we want. Being as loud as we want. Picking up a book at any point in the day – not just after the rest of the house is finally asleep.

    It’s just enough time to help you remember what an interesting set of people you are, and reuniting with the girls again is really the sweetest.

  46. Deb says...

    Sarah, I went to a YMCA camp for girls, called Chimney Corners, in Becket, MA; I also worked as a staff member there for several years. I highly recommend it. As an only child, I believe my parents sent me to sleep away camp for socialization, etc….this was in the 70’s…the camp still exists. My daughter went to Camp Woodstock for 2 years – they offer 2 week options…it’s in Woodstock, CT.

    • Suzanne l says...

      I am a ccc camper as well. 84 to 89! I couldn’t imagine spending an entire summer at home. I am still in contact with a lot of my bunk mates and cherish those memories.

  47. Nancy says...

    We try to plan for our kids (now 12 and 10) to go to sleepover camp the week of our wedding anniversary. It allows for a bit of a honeymoon every summer. When they are gone, we break all the rules (eat meals in front of the TV and call nachos dinner). I laughed out loud when reading this essay as we love to talk loudly at night when they are gone, just because we can! We don’t have a rule that we can’t talk about them, but it’s true that a lot of usual conversations are about coordination and that isn’t necessary when they are away at camp. The time they spend away from us allows us to reconnect as a couple. This year, we have a week with each child home without their sibling as well at time with both of them gone. It has been really fun to connect with each kid as a “temporary only child” too!

  48. Rebecca says...

    I sent my kids (ages 12 and 10) to summer camp this summer for the first time. It was only for a week. It was so hard for me to send them off and not know what they were doing and not being able to talk to them. I kept thinking of little things I wanted to tell them. I also knew that it would be the first time my husband and I were alone without kids for a whole week. At first, there was an adjustment but we survived and still liked each other at the end. It was a great experience for my girls but I think I needed it more. I needed to know that I’m still me without them (if that makes sense).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that totally makes sense. thank you so much, rebecca xoxo

  49. Lauren says...

    Heh, I went to sleep-away camp three years in a row, starting at 10. The first year was great, the next two, not so much, as I became a target of mean girls. Then again, I have an introverted personality and didn’t enjoy many communal activities, even then!

  50. Rachel says...

    I went to sleep away camp every summer starting at age 10 and into college (as a staff member). My longest, dearest friendships formed at camp and I met my husband there! We will definitely send our kids to camp…but I am dreading being separated from them for so long (even knowing what a positive, formative experience it can be for them).

  51. Sophia says...

    My sister and I grew up in Los Angeles and spent every summer we could at Camp Mystic, an all-girls camp in Hunt, Texas. My parents loved the break and always felt comfortable going on vacation knowing that we were safe and happy for a month. I went for thirteen years (9 as a camper, four as a counselor) and my sister went for twelve. We made lifelong friends and it made going away to college so much easier. I dream of Camp every July and wish I could go back – no phones, no worries bigger than what sort of ice cream they’d serve after lunch that day. It was the best!

  52. Andrea says...

    Great Post!
    Reminds me of this great episode of This American Life.
    Episode 109: Notes on Camp Aug 28, 1998
    Stories of summer camp. People who love camp say that non-camp people simply don’t understand what’s so amazing about camp. In this program, we attempt to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between camp people and non-camp people.
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/109/notes-on-camp

    • Susan says...

      This episode is my favorite!

    • Andrea says...

      I agree! :)

  53. Brynna says...

    I was lucky enough to go to camp for several weeks during the summer with Girl Scouts. It’s truly a life-changing experience!

    Now, I work with low-income students and families – summer camps and experiences are a dream to many of them, but they’re much too expensive.

    A great program based in Boston, MA is raising money to help send underresourced students away to summer camps. If you’re interested in helping a young person experience the magic of summer camp, feel free to donate!

    http://www.matchmore.org/

  54. Caroline says...

    My summer camp experience every summer has created some of my favorite memories! It was my parents choice to send me, and while at the beginning it felt like they were trying to get rid of me, I have learned that they just wanted to give me an amazing opportunity. They both went to camps every summer growing up as well and I long to be able to do the same for my children! It can be expensive but so worth it. Mine was an all girls camp for 4 weeks a summer. I learned how to start a fire with wet timber, make lasting relationships, and strive for goals that I set for myself.

  55. No way!!! My kids are stuck with me all summer. College will come soon enough. For now… They are mine ❤️

  56. Stephanie says...

    I’m from the Midwest and went to summer camp in Michigan for 7 years–4 and then 8 weeks! Those were the best summers and times of my life..

    • Andrea says...

      I’m in Michigan with two young children. I’m curious what camp was this? I haven’t seen anything with an 8 week program! Thanks!

    • Trish O says...

      I am in Chicago and would like to know what camp, too

  57. Sheila says...

    Sleepaway camp is the most important sacrifice we make for our kids. It is life changing for them to make personal connections with new friends and nature, to really challenge themselves away from the comforts of home and without electronics to get in the way. They learn independence and self created joy. It kills us not to be with them, but we would have it no other way.

  58. Alyssa Leister says...

    This is so interesting! I only ever went to camp for 3-4 days of the summer and that felt like FOREVER! I’m incredibly close with my parents and that amount of time in a strange place (I much prefer A/C, showers that you can actually move around in, and no bug bites) was enough. I valued the worship components of (it was a church camp) but always missed my family terribly!

    My parents have definitely had to figure out their dynamic once I left for college and started my own life about 2 hours away. My mom frequently visits as I am her person. My dad often jokes that I need to come visit otherwise he gets stuck doing weird things that my mom coaxes him to do :) I’m just about up for anything with her.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg you and your mom sound so sweet.

  59. Irina says...

    My son visits his grandparents, aunts and cousins in my home country during summer almost every other year since he has been three years old. He spends most of the summer there while I only go for a few weeks since my vacation days are limited ( usually a grandparent brings him back to the US). It was hard for me at the beginning but I knew that he was surrounded by people who love him dearly and such trips gave him a sense of a bigger family since we didn’t have any in the US. You have to learn to let go your fears and trust that everything will be OK ( I worked hard on this). My only fear was that at the end of summer I would receive a very spoiled kid thanks to grandparents :) He is now almost 12 and is currently overseas for summer again telling me over the Skype that he is having the best time of his life. I am a single parent and after a busy intense school year full of activities and homework battles such summer breaks are much needed and welcomed by both of us. When he stays in the States he loves to go to few weekly night camps during the summer and it make my life easier as day camps hours are a nightmare for working parents and brings so much anxiety with logistics. My son and I are very close and spend a lot time together ( I take him to outings and we travel a lot during the year ) but I can see how these trips help him to become a very independent emotionally-strong individual who is not afraid to travel, connect with people and embrace different cultures.

  60. Emily says...

    For all those who didn’t get to go to summer camp as a kid, I’ve noticed a growing trend of camps aimed at adults. The idea of a weekend away in nature, sans cell phone/technology plus alcohol? Never too late to partake! (Note: these listed are mainly in Texas, but they’re all over the USA)

    http://www.texasmonthly.com/travel/summer-camp-not-just-kids/

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      LOVE that idea!

    • heather says...

      Ha! When I first read the title of this post, I was so excited because I thought it was going to be about a summer camp for parents. Love this.

  61. One of my biggest fears in having kids is losing my alone time. Which is probably why I’ve put it off so long! Would love a post about how other moms deal–without sending their kids to camp every couple of weeks, haha.

    • Kelly says...

      Not to snag this thread, but … I homeschool our children year-round and I also am one who needs my alone time. It can be difficult because I rarely get enough time to myself. The children know I need an hour+ break time daily, which is reading time/nap time for them. And often on the weekends my favourite little freedom is to go shopping alone. The early years go by quick and I think if your children go to school you will find the time you need for yourself.

  62. Rebecca says...

    I hope to give our 3 sons the gift of camp one day soon (but not too soon … oldest is only 4!). Camp taught me so much … and I know that my parents loved it too! Great post!

  63. Monica says...

    I am a single mom (by choice) and my kids have gone to camp for two weeks. They are currently 13 and 16 and this year my 16 year old chose to stay home and work instead. The 13 year old is there right now and I am enjoying the break (as usual!, even if there is one kid in the house. For me, two weeks away is great. I feel like it gives them a chance to be away and gain independence, but still lets them come home and hang out ad “do nothing” for a while and have a week or two family vacation in August (around here kids do’t go back to school until after labor day). I have thought about encouraging my 13 year old to go fro a month, which he could do as the camp has two week sessions, but it feels a bit too long.

  64. Summer with my kids is the best though! That’s when we have lazy mornings, swim everyday, get icees in our swimsuits with pink cheeks and wet hair. I could never give up that time with them. I attended camp as a girl- one week at a time- and I can get on board with that. We only get such limited time before they are off and gone… seven weeks is just too long. Also, am I the only one that thinks it’s crazy not to talk about the kids while they are gone? My mind is exploding.

    To each his own though- that’s why our community is full of all different kids of people!

  65. Meg says...

    Wow, after reading this, I’m so torn between no-way-could-I-let-my-daughter-go-away-for-that-long and that-sounds-like-such-an-awesome-experience-for-her-where-do-we-sign-up! I did a one-week camp when I was a kid and didn’t enjoy it. I never got free of feeling homesick. In a way, I think a longer camp could be better because it would offer more time for friendships to form and for homesickness to (hopefully) subside. The commenter who worked as a counselor and talked about the transformation she saw in kids from the start to the end really struck me. On the other hand, I agree with others who’ve talked about how fleeting childhood is and how they don’t want to miss out on summer experiences WITH their kids. I don’t know. She’s still young, so there’s plenty of time to decide! This article — and all the great the comments — were such a fantastic read!

  66. Robin says...

    This is a great post. I went to sleepaway camp for 10 summers, but never really thought of it from my parent’s perspective.

  67. Suzanne says...

    Seven weeks?!?!?!?! Holy moly!!! I am dreading 7 days away from my daughter at age 10!!

  68. Lisa says...

    I always thought the idea of going away all summer was SO STRANGE! I watched “the parent trap” as a kid and loved it, but couldnt wrap my head around the camp-thing. I grew up in Sweden where camp doesnt exist (at least I have never heard of it). The difference, I understand, is that in Sweden most parents get 4-5 weeks of holiday at some point during June, July and August – at the same time as the kids are off for summer break. I grew up with a mom who is a teacher, so she also had all summers off. My friends usually had at least one parent off, or they spent a couple of weeks at their grandparents house or the grandparents came over to stay with them until the parents started their summer holidays too. I would never send my kids to camp for SEVEN WEEKS, maybe 1 or 2.. But I also understand that its necessary for some families, and can be a great thing both for the parents and the kids. Each to their own!

  69. Amy says...

    If you didn’t watch Parent Trap (either one) and long for Summer Camp…

    • MissEm says...

      I’m suddenly having an intense craving to watch that. Either one.

  70. Kathryn says...

    As a kid my sister and I went to “camp” at my grandmother’s house for weeks during the summer, but I couldn’t bring myself to send my 6yo off to my mothers this summer, even though she offered. I’m sure it would be good for my husband and I. Maybe next year.

    • i never went to camp but like you i spent weeeeeks at my grandparents’. i LIVED for those weeks, they were what kept me going during the rest of the year. (that sounds dramatic but really, i loved loved loved being with my gparents.)

  71. Geny says...

    I went to sleepaway camp (where I’m from in Quebec, Canada but only for 2 weeks) every summer as a kid and those memories are the best of my childhood!! (but don’t say this to my parents who also took us to the beach in Maine and to Europe a couple of times;-)). We did canoe, sailing, kayak, hiking, wild camping (WITHOUT a tent!), swimming in the lake, a lot of singing, archery…. and a LOT of silly things!! Like rolling in the mud. Sitting in the forrest even when it was all wet and dirty and there were bugs everywhere. Not taking a shower every night. Eating our food without cutlery for one night. It was SO liberating!!! Going to camp when I was young defines who I am today as a women and helped me beeing more fearless in life.

  72. Jessie says...

    I went to summer camp in Colorado. It was 5 weeks and I went as a camper for 5 years then worked there for a year. It was the best. I looked forward to it every year. It gave me confidenced and challenged me to try new things. That and starting a love of nature.

  73. Kristin says...

    I went to gymnastics sleep away camp once- and only made it a few nights before I begged my mom to pick me up. I think I was about 9. Hindsight being 20:20 I really regret not working through my anxiety and staying- or my mom not insisting I stay for the full week.
    I never went to sleep away camp again on my own and I feel like it was an important social growth experience that I needed.
    Now with a daughter of my own, I am terrified at the thought of having her go away to camp , but I know this is one of those things I just have to learn to let go of so that she can grow in ways I didn’t.

  74. Ha ha kids in India are sent to their grandparents villages or farm for summer holiday fun while their parents catch up with themselves.

    Shruthi
    http://nyambura.co

  75. That summer camp sounds really fun! I wouldn’t be able to go away for that long as a kid. I think even a week would be too much for me but we are all different.
    xo
    http://www.laurajaneatelier.com

  76. Trish O says...

    I grew-up and live in Illinois. It is not really a thing here to go away to camp for that long. Most camps are for like a week or two. you are right, not really a midwestern thing. I have a few friends who are from DC. Their kids go to camp for much of the summer. I am not sure how I feel about it. It is not what I know, so that factors in. That said, my oldest is starting high school in the fall. You have so little time with your kids at home…I want them around in the summer. we are a family of 4 (two boys) and we all have the best time together. That said, I DO think it is important to find time with just your partner. I guess as with most parenting issues, whatever works best for your family and your child is the best way to do it. (PS, my younger son is 12. This is the first year he went to sleep away camp. Two weeks. It was good for him. He is a homebody. But he asked to not go next summer for so long. We will see. My older son goes camping a ton and to camp for a week or two here and there all summer. He might be the kid that says 7 weeks, see ya in August. lol)

  77. Tara says...

    Everyone I talk to who went to sleepaway camp says it was the best thing. Neither my husband nor I went as kids but I really think my boys would love it when they are a little older! Question – at what age did you start sending your kids and for how many weeks at a time?

    • Kellyn says...

      I started going at 10 – summer after fourth grade, but I think I would have been fine to start after 3rd – and I still consider it to be some of my happiest moments as a kid. I went to a four week camp which felt just right for time away from home and then plenty of time to enjoy summer with my family. Camp is amazing!

    • Emily H says...

      I don’t have kids, but my sisters and I went to the same sleepaway camp for years growing up. The camp was ages 7-14 (with a counselor-in-training program for 15-17 year olds) and my middle sister and I went at ages 10 and 8 for the first time. My mom had us go together and was worried that 8 was too young, but my sister felt better having me there with her and both of us came back talking our parents’ ears off for hours with camp stories. We would talk about camp all year long and we had such an impact that my youngest sister wanted to go the next year after she turned 7, which had my mom REALLY freaked out that she was too young, but all three of us went and continued to go every summer until we were 17. In fact, my youngest sister worked as a counselor there for two summers in college.

      Our camp had two-week sessions, which I always thought was the perfect amount of time to be away and still have the summer to do other things with my family and friends. I think my parents agreed with that time frame as well. :)

  78. Amy says...

    So empowering to see all the pro-camp comments! My husband and I both have “I could never let my children be away so long!” -type of mothers, and it’s really caused us a lot of guilt as adults trying to pursue our dreams. We have already decided that we want to send our kids to camp for their personal growth, and also to help us learn to support them on their adventures!

  79. I never went to camp. I was kind of afraid of it, and my mother never would have let me (my mother didn’t even let me go away to college…but you can bet I hopped on a plane and moved as far away as possible as soon as I graduated). My kids are still very young, and the idea of sending them away is so scary and sad, but reading these comments really makes me thing camp sounds awesome! I want my kids to have more freedom and autonomy than I had, and camp sounds like an amazing way to get those things. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for the future!

  80. Theresa says...

    I went to a one week camp in 5th grade and was a camp counselor in my early twenties. I think camp is great! I am now in my 40’s and have a two year old. I often dream of consecutive days of time alone (and with my husband) and sending her to camp when she’s old enough, but I have so many fears about her safety, the lack of control, etc. I think I’m in a stage right now of feeling that way, as we are undergoing a big life transition and moving 5.5 hours away from where we are now. Anyway, I digress. I loved this post and hope my daughter enjoys going to camp someday! I even think I’d like to do a family camp. (Maybe an idea for a future motherhood post, is the anxiety of your kids growing up.)

    • MZ Goodman says...

      Thanks, Erin! We really are!–mz

  81. MW says...

    What a lovely essay. We are super lucky in that my in-laws take our kids for 2 weeks in late August for Camp Memere and Pepere (they are french canadian). My kids love it, my in-laws love it, and my husband and I get so much time to ourselves. They do come home on the weekend (so in-laws get a much needed break). But during the week, we don’t grocery shop, we don’t make lunches (WOOHOO!!!), we go out for happy hour (!!after work!!), go to yoga, sleep in (no – we don’t do that – we go to work like normal). But it feels like it, you know! I’m sorry to boast, but its truly awesome and we so appreciate it. I love the rule of not-talking-about-your kids. Man, that’s a hard one for me, but I’m going to try it this year.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      !!after work!! = hahaha i love that! i know what you mean, alex worked from home one day a few months ago and i didn’t have to hurry home from work at 5 and i felt SO FREE :)

  82. Jessica says...

    I was so happy to read this post! I went to day camp for eight weeks each summer where we did horseback riding, canoeing, archery, and all sorts of sports. Oh and also the classic “gimp bracelets” made from plastic string! I loved camp so much I worked there as a counselor as soon as I was old enough. The last two weeks were always the best, when the entire camp split into two teams (green and white) and had a huge color war throughout the week with all sorts of events and competitions! My senior year (as a camper) I was nominated to be one of the two color war queens and it was awesome! I have such great memories of camp and because mine was a day camp it was (in my mind) the best of both worlds, I could go to camp and sleep in my own bed at night. I hope to find a similar experience for my kids when they are older!

  83. Kate says...

    Camp rules. I think it’s one of the best gifts a parent can give a child. I was a camp counselor for years at both day camps and overnight camps. I often regret that I didn’t make camps a career. They are so different than regular school, and they help children grow in a way you just can’t achieve in a school or at home. It’s a totally different kind of child development and really underrated in my opinion. The unstructured-structured play, the new experiences, the camaraderie, and the independence are phenomenal for kids. It’s empowering to gain new skills like horseback riding or making a camp fire. It’s awesome to learn those skills with a new friend. It’s thrilling to be able to choose exactly what activity you want to do that day without your parent having any say. I see a massive change in kids between their first day of camp and when they get on the bus to go home. Both going to camps and working at them were a huge part of making me who I am.

    I just wish it was more accessible for low income families. Camp and the supplies needed are expensive. I love programs that sponsor low income kids for camps, or kids with special needs to attend camps, sometimes with a helper. Camp is enriching for all kids, and every kid should be able to experience it.

    My school district does an awesome 5th grade camp every year, free of charge to students. It’s amazing! All 5th graders go during the school year and do the typical camp things: horseback riding, camp fires, navigation skills, and crafts. They also mix up the cabins so you aren’t with your friends, but meeting students at other elementary schools that you’ll go to middle school with. I’m so proud of my district for doing this.

  84. kiki says...

    i grew up in kansas, and did sleepaway camp down in arkansas. but, it was only a couple of weeks in june, and then a couple more in august. So, not the whole summer. i would’ve LOVED to go to camp ALL summer. Jealous of you east-coasters where that’s a normal thing!! I did it from 7-17 and then in college i worked at a camp during the summers.

  85. Colleen says...

    I didn’t and just having my kids go to their grandparents makes me sad! And missing the 4th would be too hard for me.

    • Awads says...

      totally agree! what’s the point of the 4th of July if you can’t share an ice cream cone with your kid?

  86. Kathleen says...

    I went to overnight summer camp for 2-4 weeks at a time (depending on the summer) starting at age 10. It truly was a formative experience for me. I idolized my counselors and gained so much self-confidence in myself through all of the adventures and challenges camp provided. I remember being so bereft when camp was over and I had to go home. I’m sure this crushed my parents, who were so excited to see me! (I remember once bursting into tears when I saw my dad at the end of camp and he was so sad at my reaction.) I will always be grateful for my summer camp experiences and I hope I can provide something similar for my kids if they want to go someday.

  87. Nat says...

    My 12 year old son goes to camp in North Carolina for a month each summer. It’s the best place for him. He lives in a house full of women (2 moms and 2 sisters ) so running around in the mountains for a month with a bunch can of boys is what he needs. He also sends me the sweetest love letters from camp. Last year one said “I appreciate you so much that if I were to list the things I appreciate about you i would need more paper!” I do not sleep well at all while he is gone though. We live very far from camp (two day drive) so I have anxiety the whole time he is gone about how he is doing even though deep down I know he is having the time of his life. It is also nice that while he is gone I can focus on doing more typically girly things with my daughters, without him having to feel left out, such as a trip to American Girl store, getting our nails done, etc.

    • Theresa says...

      What sweet letters from you son!

    • Deb says...

      That is the sweetest thing that he writes letter like that! I am seriously tearing up.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh how adorable. you and your partner sound like such loving parents.

  88. Megan Converse says...

    MZ, I love reading this!! We sure do miss you around here (and on slack!) I passed this article along to the rest of the digital team :) Hope all is well!

    • MZ Goodman says...

      Hi, Megan! So glad you liked it. Hello to the LA crew! x–mz

  89. Briana says...

    When I was a kid, I went to camp every summer from age 7-16. It was a 4 week camp in Montery CA where we rode horses, learned archery, played tennis, swam. I felt like Haley Mills in The Parent Trap. They are by far the best memories of my childhood. In addition to the fun stuff, we also learned valuable lessons on being self sufficient. My first summer my lips were so chapped after 2 weeks- I realized I had to be in charge of my own Chapstick. We also learned table manners and how to make hospital corners on our beds. My sister in law jokingly refers to it as ‘manners camp’ but my brother, sister and I all have THE BEST memories of our time. The experience gave me independence and taught me to rely on myself. It prepared me to go across the country to college alone, and study abroad.
    I don’t have children of my own, but when I do, I will definitely be sending them to camp.

  90. Lauren says...

    I hope MZ and her husband know what a gift they are giving their children! And the gift they have given themselves! My brother and I went to camp every summer as children, both day camp and sleep away camp for eight weeks, and I remember my parents would write us letters from their weeklong vacations in Las Vegas, the Caribbean, California… they really took advantage! Camp really runs in my family — all my cousins, aunts, and uncles went to camp, and my parents even met at theirs! It is the best part about childhood, and any parent with the means to send their child should really consider doing so.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i never went to camp (it wasn’t really a thing in the midwest, i don’t think? at least not in our suburban area), but my friends who did go to camp rave about it. it’s amazing what close friendships people seemed to make (and keep to this day!).

    • Meg says...

      No, it’s not really a Midwestern thing! I’ve always been a bit sad about that. Northern Michigan and Northern Wisconsin would be perfect!

    • Bailey says...

      I just wanted to pop in and say that there are LOTS of great summer camps in Michigan and Wisconsin! I run an environmental education program at a overnight summer camp/outdoor education organization in Michigan, and camp is a great, and transformative, part of the kids’ lives around here. In my experience, the Midwestern kids that are most involved in summer camp are Jewish–summer camp is a huge part of life for many Jewish communities in the Midwest. Jewish or not, though, there are definitely many wonderful camps to be found in this area :)

    • MBH says...

      I grew up in Chicago and went to a sleep away camp every summer from 9-15 and then was a counselor from 15-19. It was THE BEST! They do exist in the midwest, just maybe not as popular as some other states :)

    • MBH says...

      I meant to say in my comment – coming from Chicago my camp was up in Michigan…

  91. melissa says...

    i loved this! i’m already tearing up thinking about sending my son to sleep away camp in the future, everything about motherhood is amazing and heartbreaking! ok tearing up at my desk now…

  92. Lydia says...

    I don’t have kids, but I’ve been listening to a podcast about parenting called “The Longest Shortest Time.” It seems like a very apt title.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, the best title!

  93. Christie says...

    I come from a pretty low-income family (single mom and all), so camp was never an option. In fact, it was always torture because I would get the brochures in the mail each spring, and I longed for days in the woods, horseback riding, lake swimming–anything out of our apartment! It wasn’t too be. I think I always assumed I would send my kids to camp, but now that they are getting close to that age, I realize that these camps cost a TON of money. We could do an awesome family vacation or summer camp. I think I’m going to choose an awesome summer vacation and enjoy every second with my kids.

    • Heidi says...

      I know what you mean; some camps are expensive. I highly recommend Girl Scout camp, and I am sure Boy Scout options are great, too. Very reasonable, and you can purchase an inexpensive Girl Scout membership (in order to be able to attend) for your daughter as you register. Most camps in my area are only one week, especially for younger girls, but some are two weeks. Good luck!

  94. Leah says...

    i loved, loved, loved summer camp as a kid. when my sister and i would get on the bus, we’d go to the way back because there was no window and we wouldn’t have to see our mom crying and waving (embarrassing!)

    now, my 3-year-old son and i go to family camp for michigan alumni for a week each summer, which is the most fun, but i imagine that i’ll send him to camp on his own when he’s ready. i will 100% embarrassingly cry and wave when he climbs on the bus!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      the michigan camp sounds amazing!!! my sister goes to a family camp in california with her sister- and brother-in-law, and i’m hoping to join her next year!

  95. Ali says...

    I love that MZ and her husband are aware enough to accept Flora’s choice to attend summer camp for seven weeks at age seven. It provides kids with so many good memories, promotes their independence and allows parents some much-needed alone time. I work with parents who are terrified to send their kids to half-day camps–and as a person who works in child development, you have to give kids (and parents) room to breathe!

    • MZ Goodman says...

      Thanks, Ali. We talked about it at length and over time with her to make sure she knew what she was signing up for. And she’s going to stick with it, even after her brother leaves. I guess you have to know your kid and trust your intuition and their own sense of self.–mz

  96. Lori says...

    This is great! I went to sleep away camp but only for a week. I’d come home to a cleaned out closet. It would be nice to be on the other side of things when my kids get older. It’s something all kids should experience.

    • MZ Goodman says...

      Lori: don’t tell them, but of course we cleaned out their closets!–mz

  97. We are literally driving down 95 having just pick our daughter up from summer camp in Maine. We are from Virginia. The camp experience is a gift for both our daughter and our husband and me. The camp gives her the time to make “real” face to face friendships from all over the US and abroad. It gives us the chance to realize that we a truly compatible. It’s a gift to have a small parenting break knowing your children are being mentored by loving, enthusiastic camp leaders. We’ve done this for 6 years and it’s a blessing all around

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sounds wonderful! (and how cool to go to camp in maine — it must have been gorgeous.)

    • We have two young daughters and have been looking at East Coast Camps (we’re from the NE but live in CA), would you be willing to share the name of the camp you love?!
      Thank you!!

    • Elle says...

      Sarah, I’m not sure which camp Karen sends her kids to in Maine, but I attended Alford Lake Camp, an all-girls camp in Maine, for 6 years and can’t recommend it highly enough!

    • T says...

      I also attended Alford Lake Camp for four summers when I was a kid, and it was the best! Reading this made me so nostalgic for camp and I am in my 30s now :)

    • Maine is magical … We love Sebago Lake ?

    • Our daughter goes to Fernwood Cove… Amazing owners who met at a summer camp in Maine later married …

    • Emma Bee says...

      Sarah, my sister went to YMCA Camp Woodstock in Woodstock Valley, CT (in the NE corner of CT by the MA border). She went for years as a camper, then as a counselor, and then as admin staff (aquatics director, counselor in training director). She loved it, obviously!

  98. I loved summer camp as a child! I went to two very different camps which taught me so much about myself. One camp was a established program which had been running for decades. The schedule was rigid and was heavy in religious tradition. The second was still a church camp, but much newer. There was no real schedule other than meals, and we would often have free time to do as we liked. I found myself clearly drawn towards the more structured environment. I felt safer knowing how to plan, and always what to expect. This had remained true into adulthood! I will be sending both of my daughters to camp once they are of age!

    Xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  99. Natalie Brennan says...

    MZ, you are hilarious. This line cracked me up — ‘You see why it happens: You look at each other and you’re either really grateful to have downtime together or you look at each other and think holy crap!’

    Thanks, ladies!

  100. Alice Quin says...

    I loved this essay! I am tearing up.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thank you, Alice! It got me, too!

  101. I am bereft when my kid spends a weekend at a friend’s house. Four weeks? Maybe at age 30.

    • RT says...

      haha, that’s what I was going to say ;) But for real though, I never went to sleep away camp, and always wanted to, so if my girls want it, I’m going to let them. My husband went his whole childhood for weeks at a time and said it was the time of his life!

  102. Boa says...

    I am reading this in a quiet home because my four year old is still at her first sleepover with her cousin (at her grandparents.)
    It is truly bittersweet to watch your children grow up and want all of life’s beauty and experience for them and at the same time know they won’t always be under your roof, or climbing into your bed.
    I always remember reading someone talking about this:
    Hurry up, slow down!
    Hurry up, slow down.