Yes, it’s that time of the year again. In full disclosure, I am and have been 100% guilty of all I am about to tell you not to do. But I have sound support and examples of why you should do as I say, and not as I often do.
So for the past 11 years, I drive to the bus stop – chase my kids for pictures, give them multiple hugs and kisses good bye, wave until my arms hurt, wipe away my tears and then run home to my computer to scan pictures posted by their camp. Is this good? NO!!! First of all it hurts my husband’s feelings. He wants us to enjoy our time together. Don’t get me wrong, I love having this time with him, but how can I be in a good mood if I am worried about my kids. But really, are those camp pictures going to give me that assurance? I know that the answer is no.
Don’t we send our kids to camp to take a break from technology? Are we sending mixed signals? No phones, no computers, enjoy the outdoors, but make sure you get in a lot of pictures, because we, the parents, aren’t taking a technology break. Maybe we should take that break as well.
I have experienced first hand how pictures/videos can be totally deceiving. Let’s go back nine years. It is my middle son’s first year at camp – the same boy who was so excited to go to camp, and the same boy who always has a good time. His division went on an overnight on the other side of camp and one of the staff members decided to take a video of the night. There I was watching so intently that my eyes were almost popping out of my head – there he is!!! One quick glimpse, but wait – he looked miserable. I kept watching knowing that it must be a mistake and there he is again- looking miserable again and all by himself! I did not know what to do. I couldn’t breathe or sleep. I was beside myself. My fun, smiley son looked so upset and was all by himself both times I saw him in the video. My thoughts were, “We made a mistake, he was too young for camp, I have ruined his entire camp experience.” Waiting for our next phone call seemed like an eternity, even though it was the very next week. What to do – bring it up or keep it positive and not focus on his misery. During our conversation, I casually mentioned the overnight. His response was, “The overnight was awesome, it was my favorite night of the summer so far.” Seriously, I had just spent the past week developing an ulcer because I thought he was so unhappy. The take away should have been not to take the pictures or videos too seriously. They don’t capture the whole story. Did I learn my lesson? I would like to say yes, but that would be a lie however I do realize making assumptions could easily spiral to a new level of psychosis. So now, I will only look once a day and not jump to any conclusions. In fact my favorite pictures are not only the ones where they are posed and smiling, but also the ones where my kids are in the background and I’m standing with my husband with a couple of AR-10 rifles (those were the hunting days). They each show different perspectives both are valuable.
Enjoy the pictures and videos from camp but treat them as a bonus not a survival line. Let your kids tell you all about their adventures without you piecing together what you think happened based on studying and analyzing every photo all day long.