The departed

My daughter is leaving for sleep-away camp this Saturday, and I am very depressed.

This comes with being a parent, and it’s the part I hate the most. Namely, selflessness. When you’re single, you do what makes you happen. Oh, there are concessions. To your folks. To your girlfriend. To your pals. But, basically, if you want a bagel, you buy a bagel. If you wanna sleep in until noon, you sleep in until noon.


My daughter is almost 9, and she will be spending seven (yes, seven) weeks away from me. Cliche be damned, it seems like a few months ago that we brought her home from the hospital; that we were changing her diapers; that she was learning to walk; and talk; and understand. I cherish the summers we’ve had together—county fairs and trips to the zoo and ice cream and July 4 fireworks. I don’t want her to grow up any more, and I certainly don’t want her to grow up five hours away from me.

And yet …

I do want her to experience life. And try new things. And take chances. And discover herself. I want her (not yet) to kiss a boy for the first time and fall in love for the first time and drive across the country with her friends and backpack Europe and see all the things she’s supposed to see. At the same time I want my baby girl to need her daddy, I want my growing girl to not need her daddy quite so much. Hence, while I hate that she’s leaving for camp, I know how important and beautiful and wonderful and opportunity it can (and, hopefully, will) be.

Last Father’s Day I wrote a column that resulted in a lot of heat. I spoke about fathers who do little with their kids; who choose golf over ballet recitals and watching TV over Saturdays in the park. They’re out there (you and I both know who they are), and—as my daughter’s last bags are packed—I can’t help but think of them once again.

Childhood goes by so fucking fast, I hurts me. I don’t regularly succeed at this, but I try and cherish the moments and embrace the smells and sights and giggles and happy times. I want this all to last forever, because I’m fully aware that like this (snap!) I’ll be old and gray, and my kids will be adults with jobs and mortgages and such.

I am so happy.

I am so sad.


12 thoughts on “The departed”

  1. Seven weeks? Holy mackeral – that’s a long time to send a nine-year-old away to camp … too long in my opinion. It damn near seems hypocritical to speak of absentee fathers, although, yes, I KNOW THE DIFFERENCE in you providing your daughter this opportunity as opposed to a sperm donor who barely remembers their daughter’s name.

  2. 7 weeks away from home for a 9 year old?
    You’ve got to be kidding?
    Please don’t write about quality time again.
    Return to your coffee house and write , she to young to spend that much time away from family.
    You’ll regret it! I’m surprised that your wife went along.

  3. 7 weeks of camp for a 9 year old. That’s great parenting, Jeff. Please don’t give parenting advice anymore. At least the dad who golfs on a Saturday might have all day Sunday with the family. Summers with my kids are precious. You pay to send yours away.

  4. Yeah, seven weeks is a long time but…it’s not like the girl is getting shoved on the bus screaming for home is it?

    Jeff, enjoy the parent weekend visit(s) and expect her to come back different, in a good way I hope.

  5. since you didn’t make a correction and say you meant days I can only assume you were trying to get some sucker to ask where they could send their daughter for seven weeks to get rid of them. I even googled this to see if there really were 7 week camps for 9 year olds, found nothing. If you are really willing to turn your daughter over for that period of time at that age you are an idiot.

    1. Doug, you have no remote idea whereof you speak. Yes, I meant weeks. Yes, I am v-e-r-y sad. Yes, I think it will be amazing for her. This is a camp, in upstate NY, where my wife’s family has gone for years; where, this summer, eight of my daughter’s cousins will also be attending. Am I thrilled at being away from her for that long? No. Heartbroken. But it’s not about me—it’s about her. My wife loved summer camp; my sister in law loved summer camp. Their cousins all loved summer camp. They say it was the best part of their years as kids—swimming and water skiing and arts and crafts and hiking and songs and learning about independence and the first stages of self-sufficiency. Believe me, it tears me up. I’m a work-from-home dad who lives for his kids. But it’s not about me.

  6. Yeah, I’m with most here. As a Dad of a kid of the same age, I can understand a long weekend or a couple days away.

    Seven weeks at that age is ridiculous, especially in the perspective of your ‘fathers day’ article last year.

    Writing about how ‘sad’ you are almost sounds like a confession of guilt. There is plenty of time for your kid to be away, not at that length of time at that age.

  7. I’m surprised by the response here. Sending your daughter away for camp is very, very, very different than being the kind of dad who regularly ignores his kids. Even if it’s for a long time. They didn’t drop her off in the woods so they could get away.

    Just a wild guess, but any of you complaining parents above Bears fans?

  8. We sent our kids to camp, but they were a little older than 9 I believe. They went to a Jewish Camp, Camp Interlaken in Northern Wisconsin. If you check their web site their is a video there. I think you will see kids as young as 9 there. I don’t remember how long the sessions were, but I am pretty sure they could go as long as Jeff’s daughter is going. The fact that she has cousins going should certainly make camp a lot easier for her.

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