Summer camp: a rite of passage

told Noah about the Vaseline on the toilet seat. And about putting conditioner in the shampoo bottles. I may even have mentioned the Saran Wrap my bunkmates and I stretched across the potty seat in the cabin next door while everyone else was at dinner.

Hey, I’m sorry if it’s your kid who bears the brunt of my kid’s camp pranks, but I had to come up with something to make Noah’s first solo week away from home sound appealing.

Yeah, I know, I should know better.

The first time I broached the subject of camp, Noah was stunned.

“A week’s a long time,” he slowly replied, as I loaded the dishwasher and he poked his head into the pantry to sniff out a snack.

He agreed that the zip-line, horseback rides and bonfires all sounded swell, but he’s never been away from us for that long. A week is a long time.

When I mentioned that his best buds were also going and that they’d even get to bunk in the same cabin, he nodded. Then he shrugged.

It was time to dig deep, so I hooked him with the pranks. That sealed the deal.

Why the hard sell? Had Noah’s friends not been going I might have waited another year to consider sending him away to camp, but I sensed an opportunity. I’m reassured that he’ll have his buddies with him on his first journey into the woods without mommy’s compass. This time he’ll have to find his own way, without my guidance—or interference. Plus, there’s something magical about a boy going to camp while he still possesses a sense of wonder, before pursuing girls becomes a full-time endeavor.

A child’s first trip to camp is a rite of passage. Sure, it’s a nice break from mom, dad and little sis, but it’s more than that. Camp will be an opportunity for our son to catch a glimpse of himself as a totally separate person, differentiated from our family. He’ll discover how he’s inclined to react and respond to social situations and other conundrums independently. He’ll learn to recognize his own voice.

Oh, and lest I forget, camp will also be a chance for Noah to miss us. To really appreciate his dad and me and to realize how good he’s got it at home. To miss getting read to every night as he falls to sleep …

I’m going to have a little cry now.

Many years ago I listened as noted pediatrician and parenting guru T. Berry Brazelton addressed a mom concerned with preparing her young child for a brief separation from her."Trust me,” he smiled in his signature grandfatherly style,"It’ll be harder on you than it will be on him.” I recall nodding self-assuredly as I laughed along with the audience of family therapists and the smattering of parents who’d come to hear Brazelton speak.

Eighteen years later I’ve shed that naive self-assurance and can totally relate to that worried mom. I also get what Brazelton meant. Sure, Noah will experience a pang or two of homesickness, but he’ll have the time of his life. He’ll be too busy to miss me for long. (Though, given the stellar sarcasm I’ve been subjected to recently he’d better miss me or I’m getting my money back.)

As for the pranks, I tried to redeem myself with talk of consequences and potential paybacks, but I’m afraid Noah didn’t give a hoot about that. Too busy plotting.

Camp will be good for all of us. Todd and I will get to dote on Holly and have a squabble-free week and Noah will really dig the zip-line. It’s actually been on my"list of things to do before I die” for a while now. Hmmm, I wonder if Noah will mind if I tag along.

I sure am gonna miss the little guy.

Then again, maybe it won’t be so bad. Chances are, he’ll get kicked out and sent home early.

Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., has been a clinical member of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy since 1995 and is a featured blogger at


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