Lisa Hostein’s son Ezra (left), with his buddy Alec, boards the bus to summer camp.
Anyone who’s ever sent a child off to overnight camp for the first time knows exactly how I’m feeling. Oddly, the pit in my stomach only developed on Day 2. I was a bit teary during Ezra’s bus sendoff to the B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp in the Poconos but it was all so overwhelming, the reality of the situation didn’t sink in. (Plus I had to keep it together for my 7-year-old, Sam, who I knew was going to miss his brother terribly.)
I’ve shipped him off for a few days before – to his grandparents home or to a sleepover at a friend’s. But sending my 10-year-old to camp feels even harder than sending a child off to college; that may sound naive, but at least then you can talk or email or text-message as frequently as you want.
Now camps – and us parents – are struggling with the balance between letting camp be the traditional ‘away’ experience and relying on the Internet age, with online photos and email correspondence to stay a little more connected.
Yes, the online photos help, as do the occasional ‘Ezra sightings” as reported by his older cousins who are counselors there.
But it’s the silence that aches. His bedroom is eerily quiet, his infectious laugh doesn’t resonate throughout the house; I even miss the usual no-nos: whining, shouting and indoor ball-playing.
But I was the one who pushed for this. My husband was much more skeptical. Having spent the best summers of my life as a camper and counselor, I know what camp can do to help develop confidence and independence. And I knew it had to be a Jewish camp. The latest studies only confirm what I had long ago learned first-hand: Jewish camp is a pivotal experience in nurturing Jewish identity. Of course, only when I was much older did I realize how formative my many summers at Camp Young Judaea in New Hampshire had been. Although Ezra goes to Jewish day school and lives in a much richer Jewish environment than I did in my youth, I knew nothing compared with the joy of Shabbat, the connection with Israeli counselors and the Jewish spirit that permeates Jewish summer camp.
Even as that silence grows increasingly louder each day, I know we did the right thing sending our eldest off for a month. Although maybe we did it too soon?