Packing for Summer Camp: A Mom’s Perspective
How do you get ready as your child starts to talk about packing for Jewish summer camp in your house? In my house, it looks something like this.
I go to the garage to get out the summer duffle bags out of the storage space, only to find myself wondering where the things I was sure I put in there last summer got to.
As the packing process begins, each child, one at a time, brings out their entire wardrobe of clothing, from underwear to Shabbat dress clothes – and even the clothes that are still lying on the floor, even though I’ve been reminding them for weeks that we’ll be going through everything shortly. I keep several trash bags at the ready to get rid of the items I knew my children would never wear but that they insisted they would – and that are now, of course, too small. We make three piles: one for donation, one to keep but not to pack, and the final pile that will make it to camp.
Once I’m sure everything is out of the kids’ rooms and sorted into the three aforementioned piles, we’re ready to start labeling.
But wait! Before I can really get to that, I have to do more laundry because, as I mentioned earlier, there were all those clothes that came from the floor. As I put the laundry in, I try to keep track of what went into the wash and where it should go when it comes out.
Then I start labeling so that my kids’ items are discernible from others at camp. Some parents buy tags that iron on or stick on – but I’ve usually waited too long to order those things, so I rummage around the house looking for the Sharpie that I know I put in that drawer just the other day. As I rush around the house, asking others where the marker could be, it magically appears back in that drawer I checked just a short time ago.
Back to labeling. As I sit with each child, I realize there are far too many clothes to take to camp, so negotiations begin. I advise my daughter that the fancy dress she wore to that party last year is not appropriate for camp – but she, of course, insists that she has to have that dress for the camp dance. For the sake of her self-esteem, I acquiesce. I also negotiate how many T-shirts will go to camp and realize that doesn’t even include all the camp T-shirts my kids have accumulated over the years. How does an 11-year-old have that many shirts after only four years as a camper?!
As we finalize negotiations, I feel relatively sure my children will have everything they need including: stationery, enough sunscreen for my children and all of their friends, and clothing in every color for “that program that may or may not happen at the end of the session” (ahem, color wars). I add a few disposable cameras for the kids to take, because even though I’ve bribed them with lots and lots of things to make sure they get in front of the camp photographer as much as possible, that’s never enough. I know I’ll want more photos!
Finally, bags are packed, toiletries are purchased, and linens are bagged up. My children are ready… until I hear, “Mom, I need [insert some desperate requirement here]!” Your child’s needs may vary, of course, but in my house, it’s always the bathing suits.
A few days later, when the kids are settled in at camp and I’m back home, I inevitably receive a piece of mail. I start doing that little dance – you know the one, the one where you thank whatever deity you believe in that your child does love you and wants to stay connected. Excitedly, I open the letter.
“Dear Mom, you forgot to pack my…”
Steffi Belitsky describes herself as "a lifelong overnight camping person," starting at age 9. She is a public school teacher in Philadelphia and the mother of three campers who attend URJ Camp Harlam, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Kunkletown, PA.