Dear Readers - (Day 16 at Camp Lenox)
Call me insane, but I'm spending the summer at a sleepaway camp (Camp Lenox) in the Berkshires. It started with me pitching a humor series called Jenny From the Bunk -- I Followed My Kids to Camp, Now What? I thought it would be interesting to see if I could survive being out of my "mommy" element and routine. Could I break out of the mom rut... but I've realized that it's become so much more than that. I'm learning things about myself I truly never anticipated.
One of the things I'm constantly questioning at camp is my coolness. I don't mean that in a popularity kinda way, I mean it in a, 'Can I hang with people who are younger?' way, specifically those who haven't had that whimsical childlike spontaneity sucked out of them and replaced by worrying about the whimsical childlike spontaneity of their own kids. As a somewhat neurotic mom, I often wonder if I've lost my energy, my spark... my ability to have fun.
When you're young, you like to tell yourself to never grow up. You say things like, Remember, never to be like that parent, that teacher, that authority figure. Remember never to punish your kids for such and such. Remember what it feels like to be yelled at to be talked down to... to be made to feel guilty and swear you won't do that to your own children. Pinky swear. It's like a note-to-self to never grow up.
The truth is, we all grow up, whether we want to or not. We realize why certain actions need punishing, we lay guilt from time to time, we get frustrated with our children and yes, we use phrases we swore we would never say like, "because I said so," and "Don't make me turn this car around."
Yesterday at camp, I saw a reflection of myself that was not pretty. It looked like this.
One of the things I'm constantly questioning at camp is my coolness. No, I don't mean that in a popularity way, I mean it in a, 'Can I hang with people who are younger?' specifically those who haven't had the ability to do stupid things sucked out of them and replaced by worrying about your kids doing stupid things. Have I lost my ability to have fun? Do I currently have a stick up my arse? As a neurotic mom, I often think that I've lost my spontaneity, my energy, my spark.
When you're young you like to tell yourself to never grow up. You say things like, remember, never to be like that parent, that teacher, that authority figure. Remember never to punish your kids for blank. Remember what it feels like to be yelled at to be talked down to … to be made to feel guilty and swear you won't do that to your own children. Pinky swear. It's like a note-to-self to never grow up.
The truth is, we all grow up, whether we want to or not. We realize why certain actions need punishing, we lay guilt from time to time, we get frustrated with our children and yes we use phrases we swore we would never say like, "because I said so" and "Don't make me turn this car around."
Yesterday, at camp I saw a reflection of myself that was not pretty. It looked like this.
OK, to be fair it was Halloween at camp and I was dressed as a demon. I volunteered to be a guide for this ghoulish night mostly because I thought it sounded scary and wanted to be there to wink at kids when they were getting nervous. I wanted to be there just in case a mom was needed.
I said I would do it for the experience, but I'm not sure how much of that was true. When the girls heading up the event gave us the run down of the horror vignettes that would be occurring along trail in the woods, I was terrified. I was worried children wouldn't sleep again for the rest of the summer.
I mentally wrote these counselors off as being insensitive, wildly creative, but insensitive and maybe a bit sadistic. They wanted to take the whole thing a step further and do something at the end for the older kids that involved a realness that I was uncomfortable with. I watched as the girls explained it to one of the owners of the camp.
Phew, I'm so glad their running it by her, surely she'll give it the kibosh and I can look like the cool mom who's up for anything. The owner squinted her face and I waited for her to drop the axe… I love it, she said and suggested an addition or two. Am I insane? Why would you want to torture kids like this? I'm sure she'll neg the chain-less chainsaw idea, but she was enthusiastic and asked if they could do more.
I showed up and watched as the kids/counselors got ready, I too got ready, but not in the way you do when you're doing it with all your friends. No, it will never quite feel like that for me here, but it was fun nonetheless. I asked the guy with the chainsaw if he had confirmed that it was harmless. "Dude, you have to test it." I said, "If you lose a finger, then you should probably pick a different prop."
The counselors around me laughed as he pulled the cord to start it. Another counselor grabbed a stick for the test, but he was already showing us how his finger was perfectly fine resting on the running saw. Not the most brilliant maneuver, but it reiterated why I was there.
I made a couple other mommy comments about safety, all of which were prefaced with, "Not to get all Mom on you, but…" They thanked me, but I don't know if they meant it. The activity started and the first groups went through. They were young and shockingly not the least bit scared. It was dusk and the scenes were toned down a bit. A couple kids held my hand, but I didn't break character and while squeezing a hand or two remained zombiesque.
As the kids got older and the night got darker… and the scenes got more warped, I realized something. These kids wanted to be scared … that's the point of a haunted house. Yes, it seems like an oxymoronic revelation or maybe it was simply moronic, but I was so worried about them being scarred by this night of horrors. I thought I knew better, but it was the counselors who knew better than me … they were kids about a hot minute ago. They know the campers look forward to this night for 10 months. They know they can not disappoint them.
By the time I started guiding the older bunks, my eyes were dead. I didn't flinch, they cheered "Jenny From the Bunk" in my face and I didn't so much as blink. I told them that some may not survive. I told them to stay close because one person from each group gets taken, to be funny, but it's not funny to that person.
I listened as some yelled at each other to be more serious, saying things like, "I want to enjoy this experience." "I want to be scared." We saw people being pulled in body bags, weird bloodied counselors lurking and leering from all directions. the kids screamed. The kids cheered. The kids held each other's hands and grabbed at my elbows.
"Don't pull too hard my bones are loosely connected" I warned with a ghoulish calm.
Before the trail ended we broke character to tell them something serious which, long story short, ended with an exorcism a chain saw and running/screaming children. I ran along with them screaming, as if it was all real and when we got to the far end of the field they clapped and cheered and talked about how that was the best Halloween in July, yet.
This was a good thing. I was proud to scare a bunch of sweet innocent kids. It was my absolute pleasure to do so.
Last night, I got to do something many of us parents don't get to do often enough… I got to remember what it's truly like to be a kid. I got to turn off my parent radar for just a few awesome hours.
Today the talk has been about how great last night was. I think the events people need to start thinking now, I'm going to suggest a guillotine … and a cannibal scene for next year.
PS - when they were done they decorated their own cupcakes, the obvious next activity…
KIT, SWAK, XOXO,
Jenny From the Blog Bunk at Camp Lenox
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