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Who Wants To Play Happy Family? (aka Visiting Day Blows)

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Before you start with me--I get it. I defy you to find anyone who loved summer camp more than me. Cheering, color war, waterskiing, rope burning, bunk-hopping. Camp was my temple,

and I the Chief Rabbi. This was all before parenthood.

Naturally, when it came time for sending my own young-ins away there was little pause. My spouse was a different story. He is one of those people that can't understand why you send your children away (red flag). But I Cosby'ed his Nespresso and not long after he provided something resembling consent. He remembers little.

I needed to find the "right" camp for the kids. Living in NYC, I wanted something sporty, creative and rustic. No country clubs here. And I did, in God's country, known colloquially as the state of Maine. It features jaw-dropping natural beauty coupled with some methadone trailers scattered here and there for authenticity.

With the kids away, now we must make our own annual mid-summer pilgrimage to visit them for what has been craftily marketed as "visiting weekend." In preparation for this summer halftime show for families, my children--as if they are running for elected office--typically launch pathetic letter-writing campaigns demanding various forms of candy; I suspect they draft them while on the bus en route to camp. In fact, "letter" might be misleading, as their communication really consists more of a list bookended by perfunctory salutations, abandoning any sense of grammar, spelling, or common-sense (thank you private school).

While I was just happy not to receive pleas to come home early, I couldn't help but feel a bit like a clerk at the Hudson Bay Company circa 1850. Please send provisions! We are out in the wilderness and hungry! Preferably Jolly Ranchers! In my day we ate canned Spaghetti-O's. So much more dignified. My kids, on the other hand, should avoid choosing client-facing professions since they will surely have lost their teeth.

But Christmas--er, Halloween/Hannukah--comes early in Maine. In addition to the candy, Mommy has to visit absurd stores to pick up cheering paraphernalia and sport's jerseys for the kids--a shit-ton of money on total dreck! And then it's off to National Lampoon's Family Camp Weekend. Get ready Facebook, I'm gonna try and make it look pretty.

Day 1.

We arrive at my son's camp slightly tardy, maybe 20 minutes, but it's an eight-hour day--yes, eight hours. Rectal exam anyone? The day begins on the lacrosse field, because it's a crisp 92 degrees in the morning, so where else but a hot open field? I can almost hear my dermatologist tsking. Every child looks alike with their gear on. My son is able to locate me first using his GPS-honed beacon of whining and guilt-shaming. After weeks away, Master C rejoices at the sight of his parents and utters those first long-lost words: "YOU'RE LATE! EVERYONE ELSE'S PARENTS ARE HERE." Cue the strained smile.

After some genuinely affectionate exchanges, he begins to discern and examine his loot. "Wait...these aren't the right Jolly Ranchers, this is cherry flavor." Real tears flow. It's as if no time has passed at all--the magic of family. I hiss, "are you KIDDING me?!" (in a stage whisper). Of course, the other children are alarmed by my forked tongue, so I check myself begrudgingly.

We then spend the next seven hours trailing our son from activity to activity. A weekend soccer tournament has nothing on this day. Wait, they don't serve alcohol here? Absurd. I thought this was a vacation. No, no. This is called a trap. After a lunch of hot dogs with faux cheese and chili--perfect for triple-digit weather--I start planting the seeds of a slightly early departure. After all, I have eaten five blueberries today, but the boy looks sad. Fine, don't worry about me. I don't need food.