I’m Cyberstalking My Kid While He’s At Camp

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camp lettersWhen my 9-year old son told me he wanted to go to sleepover camp, I didn’t think twice about signing him up. He’d tried a long weekend, he had friends going, and he knew he’d love it. I knew he’d love it, too. I was a camper for most of my childhood and there was nothing better than escaping my parents, my “school friends” and everyday life and heading up to the wilds of Ontario. Freedom, friends, activities galore, it truly was the best of times. How could I not want the same for my child?

As the departure day dawned, my husband and I discussed all plans of our own, seeing as we’d have one less kid around the house to worry about. “One down, two to go,” we’d laugh. Dinners on patios, long weekends at cottages, it was going to be great. Sure, we’d miss our boy…. but little did I know just how much.

From the moment the bus pulled away, I was a mess. To be honest, I started getting weepy even seeing the packed duffel bags. Far from the mini-vacation I’d been expecting, I became a love-struck teen, hoping for anything – a letter, a call from the camp, the sight of my son’s sweet face on the camp website.

I soon realized I wasn’t alone. Facebook was packed with pictures of camp-bound kids. When I run into friends and acquaintances, I’m no longer greeted with a “hello” or “how are you” but instead, “How’s camp? Have you heard from him?” Almost every conversation I’ve had has been peppered with references to kids being away. Articles and YouTube videos making fun of all us have been making the rounds.

But does knowing I’m far from unique in missing my baby make me feel any better? Absolutely not.

When I see our letter carrier arrive I practically accost him. If he comes bearing fruit, he leaves with offers of cold drinks and snacks. If he shows up empty-handed, he leaves the same way. Nothing. Served up with a glare and a snarl.

Watching camp videos and trawling through photos has become de riguer. My younger sons think it’s part of their bedtime routine. When we’ve been out of town on a weekend, I can’t help but track down WiFi. Or wait patiently for my tiny iPhone screen to work its magic. Last week I downloaded a picture of a boy jumping off an enormous diving tower. Only after I sent it off to my mom did I realize it wasn’t even my son!

Some parents have little to no access to their kids. No videos, no emails, no daily photos. They kick it old-school, relying on snail mail for any news. They figure if there’s an issue, they’ll be told. Meanwhile, when the camp counselor called to tell me my son was having a blast, I told him he’d better post some pics of my boy ASAP. I needed to see his smiley, happy face. Having too much fun to stop and pose? Too bad. I wanted proof.

Were our parents like this? Stalking the mailman? Writing daily? Crying at the bus? One now-grandmother I know says the only tears she shed were tears of joy that she had her life back. Another friend told me her parents were long gone before the bus doors even closed. And I always thought when my kids were at summer camp, my man and I would go off and travel the world. Now, I wouldn’t dream of it – what if I miss a letter?

(Photo: Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock)