When I was pregnant with our fourth child, my husband was asked to counsel at a church camp for a week. Oh, and a few days before he left, the other three little ones (ages 8, 5, and 2) all got chicken pox. He left for a week. And I had a houseful of itchy, spotted, miserable children. And I was pregnant. And he left for a week.
Camp week has changed over the years. My husband went from counselor to director; that was 22 years ago. There’s a lot of work involved in directing a camp. Hands down, I’d rather be at home with three feverish children than be responsible for 80 kids out in the woods. However, in those early years, the week dad went to camp was the hardest string of days in our summer. I tried to be the fun parent and plan outings to the water park, go to McDonalds for lunch and spend an afternoon at the beach, but it was exhausting. I was better suited for creating chore charts and instituting a non-negotiable quiet reading hour in the afternoon. Dad was definitely the fun parent. Back in those days, there were two rules for camp week: 1) No inviting friends over. 2) If you get invited over to anybody’s house, you can go.
One by one, the kids got old enough to go off to camp with dad and suddenly, one summer, I found myself alone for a whole glorious week. I was giddy! Finally, payback for the year of the chicken pox.
I still love camp week, although all five of them don’t go anymore. But I still look forward to those glorious few days. Here’s my revised rules for camp week:
1) No laundry. Do it all the day they leave and then don’t do any washing of clothes until they get back. (One year, my wonderful hubby stopped at a laundromat on the way home and all five of them came back with bags full of clean clothes! Glory halleluiah!)
2) No cooking. Eat fruit and cereal and go to Taco Bell. Buy favorite flavors of yogurt with no fear of someone else eating it. Run dishwasher once all week long.
3) Girl-i-fy the bathroom. Clean it real good when they leave and revel in the fact that it will stay clean: no whiskers in the sink, no toilet seat left up, no toothpaste spray on the mirror. Leave facial mask, fingernail polish and make up on the counter in pretty trays.
4) Go to the library and check out a stack of decorating and craft magazines. In the evening, sit on the deck and read them with no tv background noise.
5) Turn off the air conditioning and open all the windows. (There’s usually a thermostat war going on – he sets it at 69 degrees, I change it to 80 degrees; and back and forth we go.)
Now you see why I love camp week. It’s like being on vacation without leaving the comforts of home. Perfect. Except by the end of camp week, I’ve had enough peace and quiet for one year and can’t wait to have the craziness of family life pick back up. Also perfect.