Do your children write you frequent letters from summer camp or is it just a myth in your mailbox? Mara Shapiro shares her experience with the myth of the summer camp letter.
I’m sitting and pondering the dearth of camp letters from my youngest child. My 16-year-old has sent a respectable two letters over three weeks. His brother? None. Nada. Not-a-one. It’s a travesty.
Before my kids left for camp, I told them, “Every day I go to the mailbox and look for your letters. When I don’t find one, I’m so sad. Why do you want to make me sad?” (Since nothing else had worked, I was going for guilt.)
The elder said to the younger, ”You should write Mom. She pays for camp.”
The younger said, ”I’ll write. I promise.”
He has not lived up to that promise, in case you were wondering.
According to my younger son’s camp, the children must turn in a letter three times per week in order to get entry to the dining hall. Obviously, this isn’t a good tactic. Since entry to the dining hall isn’t really optional (you don’t really get a lot of return campers if you don’t feed them), it’s an idle threat. And, it obviously doesn’t do the trick, since I haven’t had a letter.
Other camps make tuck contingent on the submission of a letter. Also doesn’t work.
A couple of years ago, my friend eagerly opened a long awaited letter from her 10-year-old. He’d been away for four weeks, and after three, she’d called the camp to make sure he wasn’t incapacitated in some way. They forced him to send her a letter. FYI, kids are sneaky when they want their bi-weekly chocolate bar—because he mailed his mother an empty envelope. Yes, empty. Brings new meaning to Self-Addressed-Stamped Envelope. Cruel Child.
Last year, I too emailed the camp looking for some news I could use: Ummm. I’m wondering if Jonah is still at camp. Because he doesn’t appear in any of the photos. It’s like playing ‘Where is Waldo.’ Would you mind asking him to write a letter? I mean, it’s been four weeks.
The camp director apparently stood over him and watched him prepare a letter. He emailed me to say he mailed it himself (now that’s service). Three days later, I had the envelope in my hot little hands. I ripped it open with bated breath. What did my baby have to say?
They made me write you.
WHAT? That was it? No signature. No words of love and how much he missed his mommy. Come to think of it, I was really starting to miss the “come pick me up letters” each kid sent their first summers away. Now, those were letters.
The eldest (now 16) wrote me one at the age of eight that tore the heartstrings. It read: I miss you SO much Mommy. See here (an arrow pointing at a splotch). That’s my tears, as I cry for you.
I found out later he was joking. He’d planned it before he went away. A+ for creativity, you little mother-torturer.
Now, I get 1/2 pagers from him, which is better than nothing, and which are especially meaningful since he can use the pay phone. He writes informational notes like:
No girls yet, but I’m still trying.
In the good old days, I received similarly memorable letters from the younger one. At 10, he shared his feelings about his new camp:
If you don’t come pick me up right now, I’m going to run into traffic. I’m going to run away from camp and then you’ll be sorry.
That one warranted a phone call. He was exaggerating. We had a long talk about letter writing content on visitor’s day. His notes got a bit more cheerful after that.
Does the dog miss me? When I get home can I have McDonalds?
Better than terror-filled, that was for sure. And then, the next year, the letters stopped almost completely.
When I complain about my empty mailbox, my friends say that the happier your child is, the fewer letters they write. It’s probably true, but still doesn’t work for me. I want my letters. Before I go, I’ll share with you a letter my brother wrote to my mother when he was six and I was five (I know, we were young. But it was the 70s). It was our first summer away at camp:
I hate camp. Every day I cry and then Mara throws rocks at me. She’s mean.
Pick me up.
I guess some things never change.
What’s the best (I mean worst) letter you ever received from your kids at camp?
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Do you receive letters from your children at camp? Which were some of your favorites? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.