Livingston, NJ (Aug 13) – Like mothers who send their children off to war for a year or two, thousands of area residents have breathed a sigh of relief as their children have arrived home safely from sleep away camp. They had waited with anticipation for three and sometimes even four worry-free weeks since visiting day for their offspring to get home and only now can local mothers stop talking about how difficult the last few weeks have been without their “babies”.
Camp Huron Lake, home to over 400 campers, received hundreds upon hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls over the past month from mothers concerning life and death issues such as “wearing enough sunscreen”, “bathing properly”, “running low on tampons” and “keeping on their orthodontic headgear through the night”. US Soldiers in Iraq can receive an unlimited number of packages when deployed yet campers at many camps including Camp Huron Lake can only receive two the entire summer. Additionally, the Armed Forces do not have a restriction on what can be sent up in said packages. Soldiers, many who work for 18 to 24 hour shifts in 110 degree heat while wearing several layers of protective gear, may also get any type of food which is strictly forbidden by nearly all sleep away camps.
“It’s unfair that I can’t send Jake up his favorite things to eat the entire summer. He’s going nearly three weeks since we saw him without any type of candy cake or Cupcakes by Melissa. How do we expect our kids to survive? The soldiers can eat candy all day long, provided that they’re not being shot at by Iraqi insurgents.” lamented Jen Goldstein, Jake’s mother, 43. “I’ve been worrying about my boy all summer long. I even thought about it a few times when my husband and I were touring Western Europe with a few other couples. It’s not easy.”
Sleep away camp can be a grueling ordeal for many children. A typical day is not unlike being in Iraq or Afghanistan according to many parents. Being awoken by the daily revile bugle can be very frightening in camp, probably similar to exploding mortar and gunfire disrupting a fourteen hour power nap in preparation of a two day, no sleep recon mission according to a group of NJ psychologists.
Campers also need to make crucial eating decisions at three meals a day. “Should I have a salad, sandwich, or tofu burger for lunch today? Tough decision. Mmm, and what for desert?” questioned Junior Girl camper Hanna Stern, 11. “Where’s my mother when I need her?” Like this Junior Girl camper, Iraq veteran Shane McMannus, 27, faced equally tough decisions on a daily basis. “Should I eat these government rations or starve today? But I can see how stressful the decision making process can be for an over-privileged camper. I would never want to be in her shoes.”
While many who have not experienced life in summer camp, days can seem like a never-ending trek of kickball, bracelet making, dancing, swimming, tennis, trapeze swinging, cookie baking and eating. It’s not a lifestyle for everyone says mother Julie Steinberg, mother of Jake Steinberg, 10, who very nearly was run over by the camp bus as she sprinted to see her son. “He’s out there on the front lines all day long, playing, laughing… It’s gotta be exhausting to have to do this for seven straight weeks with your friends. I’m not sure if it’s harder on him or me,” commented Julie, sitting at her pool enjoying her third pina colada of the day while her nanny entertained six-year old twins Jacob and Jakey. “I hate the thought of him not having enough rubber bands for his Rainbow Loom!”