by Andrew Johnson, Camp Committee member, camp parent, former camp staff member, and member of Temple Beth Shalom in Austin, TX. This blog was edited, redacted and clarified by Carly Johnson.
GFC Session One, 2018 has officially come to a close. With Caleb and Chloe unpacked, laundry started, and the kids tucked into their own beds for the first time in several nights, it’s time to reflect. Why do we send our kids to camp? How do we explain this investment to friends outside the Jewish community or those who don’t send their kids to any summer camp? These are questions that I let float through my head while I was sprawled out on a massage table in a San Antonio spa this last week. I’ll do my best to answer them.
Many moons ago, as a GFC staff member in the 90’s, I remember hearing about parents dropping their kids off at camp and heading straight to the airport. A European vacation awaited them while their children dove into the deep end of camp life for 3+ weeks. Long before I would understand the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood, this seemed almost callous. It resonated with me that the parents were dumping their kids off to go and play in the hills of Provence or the canals of Venice. Was this really their intent? Yes, but it’s not that simple.
Now that our kids are completely hooked on GFC and have grown up immersed in the Jewish community here in Austin, it’s easy for me to rattle off a thousand reasons why camp is important. Jewish identity, life-long friends, learning self-reliance and how to roast the perfect marshmallow for s’mores, to name a few. All these things are very important – for their development. But friends, I’m here to tell you – camp is for parents, too.
We spend all year, schlepping from one sports practice to another, Hebrew school, and scout programs. There’s school drop off each morning, homework every evening, and somewhere in between we manage to get meals and baths done. At the end of the day, once the dishes are done and laundry has been folded, my wife and I look at each other, sigh, then collapse on the couch in pure exhaustion. Where did our relationship go? What was it like to enjoy our time together?
But I now have no reservations about what these 10-24 days without kids in the house mean for Carly and me. Those trans-Atlantic voyages weren’t wrong. They weren’t self-centered or frivolous. They were earned, they were well-deserved, and they were necessary. If there’s one thing parents should know, it’s that we must take care of ourselves and our marriage to take care of our family. The good news is you don’t need to jet away to Europe or the Bahamas, but you do need to make full use of your quiet time once you’ve dropped your kids off.
We ate out three nights in a row after dropping off our Bonim daughter to join her Niviim brother – both solo dinners as well as long overdue dinner dates with friends. After two Fourth of July parties squeezed between rain showers, we left Austin and headed south for San Antonio. A few days away, no work emails, no kids’ schedules and just a handful of spa appointments were just what we needed. We had conversations like we had before the kids were born. We reconnected as a couple the same way friends reconnect in the early arrival field on opening day. Sometimes it takes getting away to a special place to reset your mind and spirit. That and a full-body espresso mud detoxifying wrap.