The lazy, hazy days of summer are finally here. You are beginning to actually relax and recuperate from last week’s frenzy of shopping, labeling and packing off the bigger kids to camp. You have the bus schedules for day camp down pat, and a new summer routine has developed. Your fourth grader has surprisingly shown how much she is capable of helping, now that her “bossy” older sister is not at home. As you open a drawer to put something away, you chance to glance at the calendar. Uh oh. visiting day, with all of its stress, is on the horizon.
Back in the day, visiting day was structured differently. Campers dressed in their school day best, cleaned their bunks a bit more thoroughly than usual and then set out to start a routine day. Since most of the parents did not drive, the camps organized a bus for the visitors. In most cases, only one parent made the schlep. Being on the road for six to eight hours, for one hour spent with your child, was not exactly a picnic.
The mother or father came with a little bag of goodies, and a few $5 bills for tips for the counselors and wait staff. Some generous parents even left $10 for the wait staff, who worked very hard carrying heavy trays with unbreakable stoneware dishes. (No disposables were used then.)
Today’s visiting day is completely different. Today, everyone in the family goes to visiting day. Don’t even think of leaving your toddler behind, though it’s an understatement to say that she does not travel well. Her big sister has not seen her for 10 full days. How can you deprive her of that pleasure?
Before leaving, check the list of must-brings that you put near the phone. Snacks that you never even heard of top the list, as if she did not leave for camp with a whole box full. Although the camp is nowhere near a desert, cases of bottled water are another must. No teenager in her right mind would waste her canteen money on cold water, if she can get her parents to schlep it when they come to visit. If you did not have a chance to buy it locally, don’t worry. The stores near camp know that they will be invaded by visitors on visiting day, and they prepare by stacking whole pallets of bottled water right near the door, often at inflated prices.
After the requisite stop at the store, the next question is “Where do we go?” The choice is really narrowed down to some pizza joints or ice cream stores. Unfortunately, everyone else has the same original idea, so the wait for a table and to be served is endless. Who cares if the pizza and/or ice cream is the same they would have been served for lunch in camp?
There’s another chapter to the visiting day saga. That concerns parents who are also spending the summer in the mountains. Their offspring may opt to spend visiting day at their parents’ place. Not only do they come with shopping lists, they also come toting laundry, with the expectation that everything will be washed, dried—and maybe even ironed—before the deadline for returning to camp.
I recently heard of some camps that have eliminated visiting day altogether. The campers who came for a whole summer got to go home overnight during the change of trips in the middle of the summer. But then there is only one night to get them ready to go back again.
Many parents would love to forego the hassle, expense and stress of visiting Sunday, and would gladly pay the transportation costs to have their offspring visit them. As for snack packages, or any other must-haves, there’s always the post office, FedEx or UPS.
By P. Samuels