I don’t get it.
If Halloween is really Happy what’s with all the images of scary pumpkins, witches, goblins, ghosts, and ghouls?
This does not make for a Happy Holiday for me. Maybe because Halloween comes on the heels of starting the new school year in September, but that’s only part of it. The other part is that Halloween’s celebration of death-like imagery (skeletons, graveyards, blood-thirsty things, devils and more) just doesn’t appeal to my Jewish sensibility of revering life.
After years of reaping the candy rewards as a child, without so much as a second thought about any spooky connections that made that experience enjoyable, Halloween and I became only polite acquaintances once I became a parent.
It was a holiday I tolerated, because my kids were part of American culture. I gave out candy at my door, but hated the consistent door-bell ringing that peppered the few hours we had to ourselves after a day at work.
But every time I saw skeletons hanging from trees, ghosts posted by doorways, and front lawns turned into graveyards, I decided to back off from the holiday’s ghoulish behavior. Once my kids were old enough to get their candy fix in the proper way, by buying it—not by opening a bag at someone’s door, I’ve separated from it entirely.
Not even my fond memories of my mother’s creative home-made costumes can save my opinion of the Hallowed holiday now. Mind you, I am not judging your participation. I’m Happy if you’re Happy.…even if my version of Happy doesn’t involve gory costumed characters or spooky-looking carved pumpkins.
If your child is returning home from overnight camp, expect that your laundry room will be filled with the dirtiest, grimiest piles of clothing you’ve ever seen since—well, never. Is it a surprise that you’re contemplating just chucking the whole lot and starting over for the coming school year? After all, do you really want to put the items with stained evidence of sleep-outs, mud slides, s’mores and who-knows-what else into your nice, shiny, clean washing machine? Though it is a formidable machine (which in some cases ought to pay rent for the space it takes up in your home) clearly intended to do the job of cleaning all manner of dirty clothing, you just don’t believe these clothes will ever be clean, no matter what the ads say.
Maybe you’ve decided years ago that the only way to deal with this mess is to shlep the whole lot to a laundromat, spending hours there as an active participant in the tedious decontamination process, so as not to sully your washing machine. Or maybe you’ve decided to feel like a queen for a day (and who could fault you for this, would that person want to do the laundry?) and indulge in the laundromat’s service to conveniently wash, dry, and fold those items into straight-edged piles which they then place in sanitary over-sized plastic bags so they’ll look presentable again? (and you might ask how would I know all the details about this? shhhh…)
No matter what route you take, after you deal with the clothing, you’ll need to deal with the camper.
Coming back home for your child will be part of a transition toward (sounding quite social-worky, pop psychologist here), integration into life at home. It will happen slowly for most.
So, how can you help your child move from camper [“we did it this way at camp”, “things were better at camp”, “I was on my own at camp”, “I can’t wait to go back to camp” (not necessarily a bad thing), and possibly the worst thing to hear: “being home sucks!”] to home dweller?
Here are some tips to consider:
1. Adjust your thinking and expectations. Though only a few weeks have passed for you, camp has already, in that relatively short amount of time, contributed to a life changing experience for her (or him. I’ll switch off from here on…).
2. Get involved in his experience by asking him to talk about it….but not at first. Give your child some much needed personal space and some time. Take cues from him about when to broach the subject. Wait for him to open up the conversation. Ask questions with some depth, beyond the typical: “Did you have fun?” How about instead: “What’s one neat thing you learned this summer?” “Tell me about an interaction you had with your counselor/friend/staff member that was important to you”, “What activity did you look forward to the least, or wish you could be excused from?”
3. Depending on the age of your child, be ready for heavy social media use, especially in the weeks after camp. The camp might have a presence on several platforms, and it’s in the best interest of the camp to engage their campers after the summer’s end.
4. Beyond the virtual, go out of your way to drive your child to camp friends’ houses for special celebrations, hang-outs, reunions. It’s important that her network remains her own, because it just might give her a reprieve from school friends who are not behaving in the kindest ways, or if they are, she suddenly may find that they’re “shallow” and “not all that interesting” compared to her friends at camp.
5. Overnight camp is an exhilarating time for teenagers. For most, living with others 24/7 gives them many opportunities to see their strengths and weaknesses in ways they hadn’t before. The camp environment usually stresses peer leadership, something that might be rare on home turf but occurs regularly at camp. It would help for you to think of ways to step up leadership opportunities at home as well, to build upon what he learned at camp, and provide coping skills for more time away when he leaves home.
And depending on your laundry skills, you may wish for that sooner rather than later.
Some family traditions get the best start when instituted before your kids are old enough to say “no”.
Then, before you know it, by the time they are old enough, the thing just takes on a life of its own.
One such tradition, started early on in our family life, yields treasures that overfill a 2 1/2″ white shiny binder with sweet memories, from just about every year since my children’s small little hands were big enough to hold a crayon and scribble something on a piece of paper.
We never permitted each other to buy a store-bought card for any occasion. Ever. This rule held true for every one of us, and we started it when our kids were very, very young.
What resulted from that one, small tradition is a memorable mountain of some of the most beautiful cards I’ve ever received and would be the envy of any card company out there. Sometimes just the child-like pictures alone made my eyes well up, even before I got to read what my children barely could write. As they got older, the cards were more elaborate, at times hand crafted with such love and care that often I would feel a little remorse receiving them, knowing how much time the very creation of them must have taken.
My husband and I had the same policy, with them and with each other, although our creative efforts never matched that of our kids.
This year, my daughter winced as she guiltily handed me a small hand-drawn card for my birthday that she barely had time to make. Her hands are full, as both she and her husband work full-time along with juggling the parenting responsibilities for three under-kindergarten-aged boys.
I’ll lovingly add it to my notebook, knowing that despite the hectic and hurried pace of her life, the tradition holds a place in her heart–and in mine.