As the baby of three, I grew up watching my older brother and sister hop on the big yellow bus for day camp almost every summer morning, right outside our front gate. Mom would blow them a kiss and yell with a cheerful smile, “Watch out for the bees!”, while I waved excitedly and smushed my nose against the window.
Mistaking my enthusiasm for jealousy, my mom reassured me that I too would be going to camp when I was old enough. I smiled and shook my head. Not a chance.
Instinctively, I knew that big yellow bus held no promise of anything good for me. I heard stories of forced sing-a-longs (how many times can you sing “This Land is Your Land?”), swimming in an ice cold heavily chlorinated pool (with a swim cap no less, as if!), horseback riding, bees, dirt and dust. Yet, each morning my brother and sister ran out the front door, going back for more. The sweet fools.
Why would I trade the comforts of home, cozy time with mom, and the chance to eat my cheese sandwich (crustless triangles of course) without having to swat away bees? Why go to camp when I could happily follow my mom around all day (marketing and laundry were my favorites) or be daddy’s little “assistant” at work? I didn’t need to go to camp to have fun.
The lazy summer days and weekends were glorious. I played in the backyard with my siblings, cousins and neighborhood friends. Our favorite game was “Camp-Getaway.” My sister and I took turns with our BFF from next door pretending we were bossy camp counselors or bunk mates at a sleep-away camp. There would always be the one kid that cried and wanted to go home whom we had to cheer up.
Boom boom! Ain’t it great to be crazy…?
We made an exciting schedule of activities. We built forts, competed in dance-a-thons, drenched each other in balloon fights, swam and sang “Boom Boom Ain’t It Great To Be Crazy”, at the top of our lungs. We’d pretend to sleep on chaise lounges in the back yard until about 9 PM then go inside and make Smores over the kitchen stove and eat Oreo slushies. Followed by an hour of a Mad Libs marathon. Eventually fatigue would set in and the sleeping bags would come out. There was no fighting for the best bunk. There was plenty of room on the living room floor.
My parents did make me try day camp, once. They promised that if I went for two weeks and still didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to go again. I agreed, as long as I didn’t have to get on the yellow bus. So my mom drove me somewhere high in the hills with lots of tress and bees. I had my sack lunch, bathing suit, cap and towel, and was ready to go. “Just try not to get burned,” she said. And there was always some kid I was warned to stay away from who was trouble. I barely lasted the week. What can I say, I’m a homebody.
The following summer, my parents knew better than to send me to camp. They sent me to summer school instead. After six weeks of Folk Dancing (what were they thinking?) and Science Exploration, I was dreaming about Mad Libs, dance-a-thons, balloon fights, Mom, and wishing I were home.
Fast-forward thirty years later. I have kids of my own, and like a lot of parents, I put a nice spin on my camp experience (did this with Sunday school too). But somehow, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. They hated camp too. For this family, home is where it’s at.
Were you a happy camper or a happy homebody like me? Did your kids turn out the same way?
I didn’t remember much joy for camp either. It’s not one of those great stick-in-your-head memories for me.. My memories are more about the times of freedom that are an essential of summer… escaping to a tree filled acre behind the house to create some imaginary world or reading books in the shade or eating messy popsicles. That’s much better than any camp!
Carpool Goddess says
I totally agree Kristi!
Christina Simon says
I hated camp, but my kids like it! Sleepaway camp, however, might be a different story.
Carpool Goddess says
Yeah, my kids always liked to sleep in their own beds. Good luck!
BH Mom says
Loved camp and stayed for a month. At visiting day my mom cried and I was totally confused. My husband spent two months (East Coast) at camp and couldn’t get enough. Camp-love skipped a generation, though. Our boys made the best of it, but never took to it. I wish I’d been as smart as CG’s parents so I didn’t throw all that dough away to keep on trying a “new” camp for several summers in a row.
Carpool Goddess says
I guess that means your grand-kids will love it! Start saving money 😉
I loved camp! I loved everything about it – staying up late giggling with my friends, the cute teen counselors, the singing and dancing …..and even the food. I had so much fun….actually a little too much fun….that I hope my kids chose not to go at all.
Oh, the timing of this post is perfect for me because the husband & I are planning to send our two gremlins to ‘sleepaway’ camp for 2 weeks this summer! FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER! I have mostly fond memories of my ‘sleepaway’ camp experience. I’ve prolly blocked all the bad memories. *snort* But I do remember my little sister getting picked on by a girl in her cabin that pulled all kinds of nasty tricks on her. I’m praying that ISN’T the kind of experience my two gremlins will get out of their turn at camp! 🙂
I love this!!! Childhood memories are always the sweetest!!!!! I can almost feel the sun on my cheeks with the lazy days of summer. 🙂
Lisa Newlin says
I never went to camp, mostly because I absolutely refused to go! I’ve always been…ahem…outspoken about my likes and dislikes. Hard to believe, I know. So I made it quite clear that I had no interest in camp, and that my parents certainly didn’t have an interest in sending me…and then picking me up when it didn’t work out.
The good news is that I enjoy time by myself, so I was content to read by the pool all summer, starting from about 8 years old until now. I’d still give a lot to be able to lounge around all summer with books and not worry about anything. Youth really is wasted on the young, isn’t it?
And when I read that you would play Camp Break Away, it made me think of that horror movie, “Camp Sleepaway.” It was delightfully awful.
I think I’m like you. A homebody. But I wanted my children to have the experience of camp. I didn’t want them to stay home the way I did. I’ll have to ask them how they remember it. I only remember going away for a weekend. It was OK. Not great, OK.
I loved camp and couldn’t wait to go to day camp and then overnight camp. I used to beg my parents to let me go for 8 weeks instead of just 4, but my parents said they wanted to see me during the summer. Now I am glad of memories of day trips to the beach and shopping and just hanging out!
Sharon Greenthal says
I went away to summer camp every summer from the ages of 9-14 for eight weeks and loved every single mosquito-bitten minute. Which is pretty amusing when you consider that I am so NOT an outdoorsy girl. I just loved being with my friends and singing camp songs, playing tennis and swimming in the murky lake. Those are still some of my favorite memories.
However, I can completely understand how you felt, too!
I went to day camp and enjoyed it. I loved learning all of those now, politically -incorrect sing along songs. Of course now there are all these fun cooking camps, guitar camps…those would have been really cool!
Lucia Paul says
Linda: My parents put it like this, “Lucia felt abandoned at camp and her sister felt liberated.” I loathed camp and also wanted to: do laundry, go on errands, make lunch, watch As the World Turns and just hang with my Mom. Both of my children, on the other hand LOVE LOVE LOVE sleep away camp. I don’t get it at all. Maybe it skips a generation?
Sheryl Kraft says
I was a homebody just like you. I went to day camp – and hated it. I would never, ever have survived sleepaway camp!
I went to day camp as a kid and had a good time. As a teenager, I was a “staff brat” at Camp Saratoga where I enjoyed many boy crazy sessions! It was a religious camp, and I’d never met so many kids with a similar background (mostly from LA!). My kids went to Camp Tawonga in Yosemite (also a religious camp) and they LOVED it! I never sent them to Sunday school, so camp is where they got their first real experience with Shabbat, etc. in a beautiful environment–with lanyards!
April Findley Dobson says
I was the oldest of 4 very spread out girls. I loved sleep away camp! No little sisters to watch, no baby’s naps to be quiet for, just fun! All 3 of my kids LOVE camp -they’ve made friends from all over the world! When I was a working adult just out of college I didn’t have money for a vacation, so I was a camp counselor. Two of my sisters were homebodies – one actually still lives down the street from my parents – even in college that’s the furthest she’s ever lived from ‘home.’ I live 6 hours away (I’m the only one, btw). I think it’s personality.
Helene Cohen Bludman says
I liked overnight camp. I went for 8 weeks from maybe 9-14. As a 14 YO, however, I wanted to be home with my school friends, so I only spent 4 weeks away. I loved hanging out at the community pool with my friends, whispering about the boys and slathering baby oil on our skin. My three kids all loved camp.
I hated day camp and so did my kids…but sleepaway camp, another story for us all. I met some of the best friends of my life at sleepaway. The maid -of-honor at my wedding? Sleepaway camp friend! But, I also think there is something to be said about the simplicity and low-key days of just hanging out at home in the summer, especially now when there is so much structure in our lives and our kids’ lives.
Jenny Isenman says
obviously it ain’t grew to be nuts like you. But I loved the post, so it was totally worth it… for me at least. XOXO
Tammy Winter DeMel says
Oh Linda, we are kindred spirits in the camp arena…I hated summer camp but I as I got older I kind of regretted it. As a matter-of-fact I just wrote about it today.
Leslie Hunley Sholly says
I never went to camp, just Vacation Bible School once. I had long lazy summers at home like you describe, and I loved them. I sent my three “big kids” to a variety of camp experiences, one to two weeks for each of them for several summers: zoo camp, nature camp, science camp, horse riding camp. archaeology camp, cooking camp, and others. They always enjoyed them. I’ve become a slacker mom with the last two, and they don’t seem to care. 🙂