It’s not that I don’t want to support her burgeoning independence in every way possible. It’s not even that I dislike writing. On the contrary, I adore my little creature to bits, I was totally on-board with her request to go off to sleepaway camp at the tender age of seven, and I write pretty much constantly. But the task of writing letters from home to my child is one of the oddest communication experiences of my life.
Should I ever need to be tortured for eternity, I would spend it writing endless blandly supportive missives to my children.
This is a one-way conversation situation. The camp my Kidlet attended uses an email system where family and friends send notes that are printed and distributed with the snail mail. It’s a no-electronics camp, so there is no way for campers to reply. Parents are also encouraged to write handwritten cheer notes ahead of time and leave them with the counselors. I did my due diligence, and sat up until midnight hand copying her favorite Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl poems onto my nifty Nancy Drew stationery. I figured at least she’d have something to laugh about. I do remember from my own camp days there was a certain cachet to getting letters, and I want her to feel supported.
On the first day she was away, I sat at my computer and stared at the blank email form.
Okay brain, compose!. Huh. What should I tell her? What do I say? Where do I start? When in doubt, Mama googles. A quick web search turned up OVER 9 MILLION PAGES about writing letters to your kid at camp. It turns out I am not the first person to panic at that blank email page. There is an entire blog devoted exclusively to this problem; virtually every overnight camp offers advice on the topic. When faced with information overload, Mama freaks out and closes out the search window before she falls into a data induced coma.
The gist of the letter writing advice is this : don’t dwell on negative emotions, give no bad news and try not to sound like you are having too much fun without your little camper.
That sounds easy. I place my hand on the keyboard and summon the words forth:
Dear Miss V,
I miss you so much. (Internal Head Editor: Nope. If she is homesick, having to deal with your emotions might make it worse. Keep it light and breezy. Start with small talk.)
The weather is better this morning than last night, we had a thunderstorm. I was worried you might be scared in your cabin with all the lightning. (Ed: WRONG. SAY NICE HAPPY THINGS. Delete!)
Your sister and I are going to a party on the village green this afternoon. There is going to be a puppet show and ice cream. (SERIOUSLY? Why not just write “we are having such a fantastic time now that we finally got rid of you!)
The cat has been throwing up a lot. Even more than usual. I had to clean up his puke from inside your hiking shoes, which you forgot in the mudroom and probably need with you, what with being off in the woods and all. Sorry I didn’t triple check the packing. (NO NO NO – Do you want her sobbing in her bunk over her beloved ill cat? And have her get even madder at you for being an incompetent packing supervisor? Think before you type, dummy.)
I think I will mow the lawn today. (Okay, better.)
Or maybe not. (A bit dull, but fine.)
It depends if it rains again. Mowing the lawn after the rain is hard and gross. But then again if it doesn’t rain it might be too hot to be outside this afternoon (pale skin Mom) and I should wait until after dinner when it will hopefully cool off a bit. I’ll decide later. (I AM THE MOST BORING PERSON ON THE PLANET! But this is probably good. Keep it tedious.)
This reminds me, please use your sunscreen and wear a hat. (Great, now I am a stale nag. She’s going to be glad to be away from me. Maybe that’s the point…)
Your sister is being a
brat pain nuisance. The cat is being crazy dangerous weird. Your dad is nervous scared at work. I love you to the moon and back, and am proud you are having new adventures all of your own. Make good memories and be ready to share them with me next week.
All my heart, Mom.
PS: I am not as tiresome as I seem. Please do not grow up thinking I am a humdrum spiritless bummer. Someday you might have to write these things, and we’ll see if you can manage coming off as cool.
Yes, my version of eternal damnation definitely includes perpetual upbeat platitudes and pointless chatter.
I forced myself to write at least once a day, the whole week she was away. Next year, I am going to hire a ghostwriter. Maybe that Moe Willems is available. He can even make pigeons interesting.