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Everything I Need to Know About Parenting, I Learned at Jewish Summer Camp

February 12, 2015 | by Kaila Weingarten

For example: the art of the two minute shower!

I never knew camp was so important to my parenting skills. Until last summer, when my teenaged neighbors were packing up, and I thought about the absolutely crucial skills I learned over my many years of attending Jewish summer camp including:

I think I need a canteen in my bedroom, to get through those stressful days.

Sharing food with everyone around you

If you got goodies from home, the entire bunk was game. Now, if I eat, my daughter wants whatever’s on my plate. Well the good news is that at least I’m getting healthier, since I can’t eat junk in front of my daughter each day.

How to manage without sleep

Do you remember those bleary eyed days? Especially the last day of camp. We stay up till the morning, having DMC’s (deep meaningful conversations) and promising to KIT (keep in touch).At least in camp it ended after a month. Now, I’m just learning to survive on low sleep. My night activity these days consists of washing dishes, prepping breakfast, saying Shema and dragging myself into bed, a few hours later than I wanted to.

Taking two minute showers

This is an art I perfected when I had a bunk of girls banging down the door before lights out, and only cold water left. Now I use this talent when my baby is crying, and I’m in the shower. At least the water at home is usually warm.

Sharing one bathroom among many people

In camp, I learned to like the variety of sundries in the bathroom. The floor was full of wet colored towels. The shower stall stocked with various green shampoo bottles. Now my tiny bathroom is full of bath toys in every color, baby shampoo, head and shoulders, pink hooded towels, a klutzy baby bathtub, and what not. But I almost can’t take a shower without a yellow ducky. Yup, it grows on you. It’s actually pretty cheerful, except if you’re in a bad mood. Then you just want to scream, “WIPE OFF THAT SMIRK, DUCKIE, OKAY?”

Singing all day long

Who can cheer the loudest? Every meal and activity was another contest. The commotion annoyed me then, but it kind of gets you used to crying babies-and you trying to calm them down. And now I have such motivating cheers to get my toddler moving! And I can totally boost my self-esteem without help. “Mommy is the best, better than the rest…” Everybody’s clapping? Great!

Surviving on a hectic schedule

Every minute at camp, you’re running somewhere. I used to get up early to call my mom, otherwise I’d have to spend my rest hour at the payphone (Remember those?) Or If I wanted a decent shower…

If I did not get up myself, the blaring loudspeaker would work. “Good morning everyone, breakfast is in one hour…” Ouch.

I decided today, I can retire my alarm clock. It’s Sunday, and I used to love sleeping in. Nowadays though, it’s impossible. By 7:20, my baby is up for a feeding. She finishes eating, and starts gurgling and kicking, trying to get me moving. I close my eyes tighter, and push in her pacifier, 10 times in a row. 7:45, my toddler’s saying, “Mommy, Mommy.” I pretend not to hear. She throws her bottle out of her crib. Thud. “Baba, baba...” she yells and starts crying. I’m still going, like energizer bunny since then…

Food sets the mood

Canteen money anyone? I think I need a canteen in my bedroom, to get through those stressful days. Especially with a newborn. Except I don’t think my stomach would love it too much. Y’know how we waited for Shabbos at my camp? Well first, there was always special food - kokosh cake that oozed chocolate all over you, if you woke up in time to daven. Then in the afternoon we had ice cream sandwiches, for the bunk that got all “tens” for cleanup that week. There was also sugary loaded cereals… it helped us get through the week -- in such a sugar induced stupor, we couldn’t be too homesick.

These days, if I need to make an important phone call, I give my toddler a cookie. Works like magic. If you’re eating, you can’t be crying. When I took my daughter for shots last week, I gave her cookies and a lolly. Listen, if it worked in camp, it works for her too.

If you don’t do laundry, you don’t have what to wear.

My husband claims amnesia to remembering how to do laundry. But I know the deep dark truth. If you attended camp, you had to know how to do laundry. Even if laundry means washing your socks in the sink with shampoo. Because you know, that’s what happens when you don’t do laundry, and wake up in the morning looking for socks. And if your detergent is lost, you just take any soap hanging around. Because soap and shampoo and detergent, they are all made to clean things, so really how bad can it be? Wait. That was a rhetorical question. I hope you did not answer it.

And what happens if my baby goes through three outfits a day? I refuse to wash laundry every day. But I do have a sink, in case of emergency.

If you have any problems, you call mommy.

Doesn’t that always help? Whether it’s bullies or boo boos, mommy always makes everything feel better. That goes for little kids and big kids too.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

It also makes the house look bigger, the beds more comfortable and the kitchen cleaner. Anyone ready to sponsor my vacation? I’ve got some parenting skills to brush up on…

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