Camp is Coming: What to (not) pack for your son

Looming very large on my desk are the camp forms to fill out for my sons’ sleepover camp this upcoming summer.  This will be the 4th summer that I ‘ship’ (for the record, I do not care for this verb, but it seems to be the most widely used) my eldest off to sleepover camp and the 2nd for my little one.  Let’s just say this – I hate it, they love it.  I try to be productive, they try not to be anything but fun-loving.

I miss knowing what they ate for breakfast or that one of them just took a ‘huge crap.’  This is the type of information that tween boys like to share at home.  I don’t hear as much about what book report is due at school as I do the contents of their intestines.  I also get a small dose of recess politics daily.

For one month of the summer, my life is eerily blissfully quiet with little to no mention of any bathroom particulars.  I have to say, after a few days, I sort of miss it.  You see, when my sons share their bathroom habits with me, deep down, I know it means that they love me.  They cannot say I love you as regularly while they figure out the hormones engulfing their body, but they can chat about bathroom habits.

In a few weeks, school will be over, and my boys and their potty talk will be getting ready to depart for camp.  Oh, that is right.  I will be getting them ready for camp.

Four summers in, I am a pro at packing boys for sleepover camp, which I can assure you is a marketable skill.  Lucky for you, I am a giver, a sharer, and good person, so I am going to outline a packing list for all of you.

  • Surrender any notion that something, anything, even just one thing may return USEABLE again.  Buying something for camp with the thought that it will be used again just sets you, as a mom, up for disappointment.  If you only send what you don’t care about using in the years to come, you will feel like you WON the lottery when something returns from camp in good fair condition.
  • Liquid body soap and/or shampoo combo is an absolute necessity.  Does your son pick up the soap from the shower floor at home and replace into the soap dish?  I think not, so he is definitely not going to pick it up off the dirty, disgusting camp shower floor and neatly place it into the cute, nifty shower dish with lid.  Never.

    photo credit: Dial for Men

  • Purchase any toiletry that is marketed specifically for menDial for men, Irish Spring for men, and/or Axe for men are all good choices (anything that sparks memories of the overwhelming scent of Drakkar Noir).  While we think we are sending boys to camp, pretending to be grown up like men saves our little boys from some homesickness.  Among their peers, the young men feel compelled to channel all the masculinity as possible, and any product that has ‘for kids’ on the label simply reminds them that they really are a kid with a mom subsequently leading to missing home.  Stick with the men’s.  It also guarantees that they may use a little of it because they will not be embarrassed to pull it out of their duffle.
  • TWO words: free t-shirts.  Pack all the ‘shwag’  t-shirts your boys receive throughout the year for this activity or that.  T-shirts have a mysterious way of losing their sleeves during camp and becoming muscle shirts.  In other words, pricey shirts and gear belong at home where they can avoid a run-in with a tear or scissors.
  • Don’t go for postcards.  Boys prefer privacy when it comes to any mail COMING or GOING to camp, which post cards do not guard against.  Believe me, if you want your son to write anything to you beyond ‘I am having fun,’ send paper and envelopes.  By the way, no need for fancy paper.  In fact, that old tablet that you have laying around is best.
  • Do not have high any expectation when it comes to mail sentiment.  I dream of the following letter:

Dear Mom,

I miss you and your fabulous cooking and laundry folding and clean socks.  I especially miss your kisses Good Night and seeing your face first thing in the morning.  I love you soooooo much.

Love, JB

Instead, when a letter reads ‘Send Shampoo’ it really means ‘I am thinking of you mom because I am remembering to wash my hair after going in the lake.’  

  • Establish a code word…for ‘I love you.’  A pre-determined phrase that you can include in your letters that means ‘I love you’ is a great way to assure that your son will read your letters before chucking them because he thinks he will be embarassed.  I cannot share mine with you, after all, it would defeat the purpose.
  • Do spend your money on good duffles.  Aside from the normal wear and tear of traveling to and from camp, boys are tough on their gear.  Not to mention that there is no worse reason for your son to be livid with you if his bag explodes and exposes all of his belonging, particularly the tiny, little stuffed animal that he may have stuck in the bottom of the bag.
  • Go heavy on the toothbrushes.   Those toothbrushes are useful little suckers.  They can be used to dislodge something from narrow areas, clean gum off a shoe, or simply take a dive in the sink.  Throw a few extra in the duffle with very specific verbal instructions to actually brush teeth with a clean toothbrush.

These helpful tips will assure your son will head to camp with all he needs.  I cannot speak to relieving the hole in your heart.

That is a whole separate bag of tricks.






{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Dr. G May 15, 2012, 2:15 PM

    Must bookmark this! And share with everyone! Such excellent tips. We use the “I love you” code phrase all year long.

  • Nicole Fende May 17, 2012, 11:43 AM

    I’ve got a few years before summer camp will be a thing, but I’m definitely bookmarking this. Modifications may be required for a girl – but that’s soooo much easier than starting from scratch. Thanks Rachel 🙂
    Nicole Fende recently posted..Outsourcing to Upsize Your Small Business ProfitsMy Profile

    • Rachel Blaufeld May 17, 2012, 1:33 PM

      I guess you just go with some lovely Dove for women body soap 🙂
      hold onto every second now!!!

  • Ellie {Musing Momma} June 18, 2012, 12:18 PM

    This is a fabulous post and great advice! It will be a few years before my boys head to any type of sleep-over camp, but I will hold onto your suggestions. I love the idea that something as simple as buying toiletries marketed for men can make a difference in how they are feeling and respecting their need to appear “grown” on the outside even when they are still our little boys on the inside!
    Ellie {Musing Momma} recently posted..I think my kid just potty-trained himself!My Profile

    • Rachel Blaufeld June 18, 2012, 1:41 PM

      EXACTLY — with the notion that they are men – ha – our boys are fit to face the challenge of being away from us


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