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There have been moments, over the past few summers, when I thought that sleepaway camp had Jumped the Shark. Many times, I thought, “That’s it. Camp is done!” It had become an institution almost too archaic and basic for our fast paced, connected, modern life -- and the kids and parents who inhabit it. I mean, what IS the point? There’s a big world out there; does anyone really need a wacked-up relay, or a cookie line-up? Maybe the whole sis-boom-bah camp thing was being forced on our Tik Tok generation of kids, who were already Pandemic-ly gypped a full childhood and were, hence, a bit jaded?

Many of us parents hadn’t been to camp in four years. Summer 2020, we home-camped, and 2021 and 2022 we shoved useless crap in Visiting Day boxes and called it a day. It was only natural that 2023 would have us skeptical. It was sure to be some sadistic exercise in bringing back what was already a hit or miss experience easily marred by excessive heat, emotion, and logistics.

But boy we were wrong. Never in my life have I seen so many elated parents post Visiting Day.

This summer, it appears that Camp has brought back the special sauce that I, for one, thought might have lost its flavor. This summer, SO many kids, who were hesitant, whiny, or even being forced to go, well, they drank the Camp Kool Aid. This summer, by and large, and by far (though not to generalize…), was the BEST SUMMER YET.

I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe the kids were sick of feeling like they couldn’t act like kids, maybe they had pushed down the need for absurd fun because, for years, they were forced into masks, pods, and a constant bleak reality. But this summer, the need for fun pushed back. Exuberance, silliness, sing-song sentimentality were all out in full force, and campers thrived in the hoopla.

Camp indeed is NOT over; in fact, it is downright de rigeur with kids and parents alike clamoring to start the journey younger and younger.

Look, the beauty of camp has always been that our children gained resilience and independence. The beauty of camp was that our little ones were forced to adapt to a new reality -- a world in which their well-intentioned parents were someplace other than around to indulge too many of their whims or too much of their nonsense.

But the beauty of camp has shifted. These days, our kids grow up in a blink, exposed to more than we ever intended; and now, when we see them acting like morons playing basketball in glittered tutus, it makes our hearts swell with relief and joy. Tik Tok might want to take away their youthful innocence (and their souls, for that matter), but that crisp mountain air, and Team Sing, and silly Dress-Up night want to make sure that the kids stay kids as long as possible. G-d bless.

So, what’s in store for Camp 2024? Hopefully that sweet spot of your kids learning how to grow up while still learning how to be kids. Sounds perfect to me.


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