Poppy and Pete are just a few weeks away from their first sleep-away camp, an event for which I have been mentally preparing myself for months. I know that they’re going to have a wonderful time, but that hasn’t stopped me from envisioning all manner of unfortunate events. The full extent of my personal experience with summer camp as a youth was watching a lot of “Salute Your Shorts,” so most of the unfortunate events in my head involve Budnick-style hijinks.
So anyway, I’ve had to do what I always do when there’s something a little panicky on the horizon: Lots of research. The following list is the result of that anxiety-driven study.
9 things to do before your kids go to camp
- Scour the camp’s website for information. Read and re-read the “Day in the Life” and FAQ sections at least once a week for a month.
- Print and memorize the “What to Bring to Camp” list. Find other summer camps’ packing lists. Compare. Contrast. Make your own hybrid packing list for each child. Do or do not color code the lists based on what you need to purchase, what you might be able to borrow and what you already have.
- Realize your 10-year-old has outgrown her sleeping bag. Add new sleeping back to your ever-expanding Amazon cart.
- Worry that your daughter’s new sleeping bag will be too warm / not warm enough.
- Label everything. Label their toothbrushes. Label their socks. Label their Claritin.
- Wonder if the camp’s nurse will track them down when they forget to stop by for their Claritin.
- Sew your 8-year-old’s second-best blankie to the inside of a pillowcase so: (a) it doesn’t get lost; and (b) the other 8-year-old’s don’t make fun of him for still having a blankie even though you’re pretty sure they probably also have a blankie or lovely or something.
- Purchase post cards. Apply stamps. Address them to: yourself; every grandparent; the aunts and uncles; and a few friends. Assume every postcard will return to your house, crumpled and unused in the bottom of a duffle bag.
- Wonder how you’re going to fit everything from your possibly overwrought hybrid packing list into a duffle bag.
It’s possible that some of these items might be ridiculous, extreme and helicopter-parentish. But a few of them are absolutely essential. Particular the one about Labeling Everything. I’m hoping that some of the kids’ belongings actually make it back home with them after camp, and I figure one way to help that happen is by making sure they know exactly which left sandal et al is theirs.
I used to use a trusty ol’ Sharpie to label the kids’ stuff. It eventually wears off, but I always figured it would last longer than a certain-to-peel-away-at-the-slightest-provocation stick-on label. Then a few years ago I went to a Type-A Parent conference and met the folks at Mabel’s Labels, and with one generous sample they proved my labeling hypothesis wrong.
I’ve been using their Write Away labels on our water bottles for years. They get tossed around the soccer field, the tennis court, co-op and the car, and I always run them through the dishwasher. I don’t know what sort of alchemists they’re employing over at the Mabel’s Labels laboratory, but they’re doing some Hermione-level wizardry because those labels do not come off.
So this year, instead of hand-writing the kids’ names on every T-shirt, flashlight and poncho, I bought some of Mabel’s Labels Sleep-Away Camp labels. Despite my best efforts to lead them toward the raccoon, the sloth or the narwhal, Poppy chose the cupcake design and Pete went with the puppy. But it isn’t too late for your kid to get a set of snazzy sloths, because the lovely folks at Mabel’s Labels want to give one of you a Sleep-Away camp set!
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I just like Mabel’s Labels a lot, so I asked them if I could give away some labels. And they said yes.