Camp Musings from A Soon-to-Be-Recovering Photo Stream Addict
The year is 1985. I am 14. It is June. It is ridiculously hot. I am sent to sleepaway camp against my will. My mom ships me off on the bus. She doesn’t drive me to camp despite my heartfelt and agonizing pleas. In fact, “you’re not even allowed to drive your kid to camp” she says, and that’s probably a lie (that I should have told). I am literally forced to sleep in the wild (work with me here, people…I’m painting a picture) in non-air conditioned cabins filled with beds with dingy sheets from the 70s with Scooby Doo and other embarrassing cartoon prints that I haven’t watched since I was three. I participate in water sports, land sports, evening activities and rainy day jacks sessions with new kids from Miami, Dallas and Chicago. I eat pancakes for breakfast, pancakes for dinner, and fill up on canteen snacks like sodas and candy bars in between. I write my obligatory letters home to get into Friday night dinner. I am away from my home. I am away from my parents. I am away from my dog. And I am happy. Sometimes. Other times I am not happy. So I cry. And make countdown calendars on the wall next to my bottom bunk crossing off the days until I get to go home. And send letters to my parents stained with real tears begging them to pick me up. Which they don’t. Because by the time they get them I am practically home. There are no photos posted daily. There are no videos. There is no blog on which to check-in. There is zero communication between myself and my parents.
And I’m still standing to report that this is the way camp should be.
The year is 2017. I am (gulp) 45…almost 46. I send my eldest daughter to sleep away camp for a short two-week session, at her request. She is at camp with almost Every. Single. Person. she has gone to school with for the past ten years. Her father graciously drives the four hours to camp to unpack her and her comforter and other dorm-like accoutrements in the air-conditioned cabin with our entire neighborhood transported to camp. She is photographed daily. Hourly. Minutely (??) by some poor college-aged photographer who will probably get his ass kicked if he doesn’t capture Every. Single. Kid. Smiling. On. Every. Single. Day.
And I try not to look. But I don’t succeed. I try not to sit through the 896 count of pics on the photo stream posted on multiple social media outlets. It’s hard not to. Especially when other people are telling you that they’ve seen pics of your kid and you haven’t. In fact, looking for pictures of my kid at camp becomes more stressful than work. It becomes a second job. I even see posts from angry parents with kids at other camps whose photo streams aren’t as updated as my kid’s and I smile because my camp has the best internet posts EVAH.
And then I stop and ask myself: “What am I doing?” Why can’t I STEP. AWAY. FROM. MY. BRAIN. AND. LET. MY. KID. HAVE. FUN. WITHOUT. OBSESSING. OVER. WHETHER. SHE. IS. HAVING. FUN?
The mere thought of missing a pic fuels my anxiety. So the only way to get over it is to not look at any pictures at all and remind myself that despite the fact that I hated every single stinking minute of the nine years I went to sleepaway camp, it was a necessary part of my growth and experience even if I wasn’t having the best time of my life. And my parents were better off not stalking me so they could go and live their own lives.
So, to the poor guy hired for a mere pittance (and perhaps a college-level photography credit), I am sorry for making you sweat trying to capture every single emotion of every single camper in this crazy media-obsessed world. Part of me wishes we would get a letter from camp saying they have officially halted the photo stream/real time video posts just to force all of us at home to chill the $%#@ out.
Don’t get me wrong. I love getting the letters. And I do love seeing the pictures. And I’m about as addicted to social media as a drug addict. I just wish for one small minute that it was 1985 again and we didn’t even know what we were missing.