It usually begins around Memorial Day.  My Facebook feed starts filling up with articles touting the benefits of a ’70’s-style “free-range” summer for kids.  Remember those? Out from dawn to dusk, pick-up sports games and hide and seek in the dark, riding in the “way-back” of the station wagon-without seat belts. Good times, for sure! Give your kid the gift of benign neglect, they say…well, I work full time. So according to some people, I’m already ahead of the game.

Being a working mom precludes giving your kid the unstructured summer of your youth. There are no lazy days just lying around the house or impromptu trips to the beach or the park. But there is camp. And although there’s structure, it doesn’t mean that there’s a formal plan in place. This is why camp works for us.

In addition to attending a regular day camp, my son also goes to sleep away camp every summer. This revelation has caused some friends to recoil in horror (“You never know what could happen THERE.”) or swoon with envy (“Wow, you and your husband must love the freedom! *wink, wink*).  Actually, we don’t do it for ourselves, we do it so that our son can appreciate the outdoors, gain confidence that he can be independent from us in a safe, supportive environment, and cultivate the ability to make new and enduring friendships on his own. For us, sleepaway camp is a precious experience that enhances all our lives.

If you’re sending your kid(s) away to sleepaway camp for the first time, you’re probably a little freaked out. (Totally normal!). But I have a few tips for camp parents on their inaugural summer camp experience:

1. Send them with the crappiest possible clothes. Crewcuts will send you email after email promoting their camp line of $45 swim trunks. Don’t buy them. They will get lost (if you’re lucky) and develop bleach resistant brown stains. Your children will claim that they don’t know how or where those stains were created. Tip #1 buy the cheapest swim trunks at Walmart or Target, or better yet, accept the destroyed hand-me-downs from your friends.

2. Don’t expect to hear from your child. Worry if you do. Your kid is going to be having so much fun that they will forget all about you. This is normal. This is good. Perhaps you’ll receive a letter in the mail, it may consist of three sentences. It’s all good. Remember…free range kids are independent and can handle life on their own.

3.  Get them a haircut and nail trim before they go. For some reason, hair and nails grows exponentially when kids are at camp. Height is also affected – expect your child to return three inches taller then when you brought them.

4. Fumigate upon return. Take their trunk and turn it upside down when they return. Have them put everything in a plastic bag and bring it to the laundromat. Wash there, then return home. Nothing comes into my home without being washed for fear of little pets.

5. Trust your camp. These people are experts! They’ve dealt with every type if situation and all sorts of kids. They know what they’re doing. Put your trust in your kid’s ability to hold it together and your camp’s ability to deal with it!

These are just a few of the I’ve pulled to help you anticipate the smaller things…like two weeks of peace and quiet!