The movie Freaky Friday was quite clever.
For those of you who never saw the original 1970s version — Jodie Foster plays the daughter. In the remake, which came out in 2003, Lindsay Lohan plays the daughter. The mother and daughter magically switch places, so the daughter takes on the mother’s persona and the mother takes on the daughter’s persona, thereby learning what it feels like actually to be in the other person’s shoes.
It was very entertaining, heartwarming, blah blah blah. Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened in real life? Well, to an extent it does.
For those of you with children and for those of you who have been fortunate enough to send your children to camp — more specifically sleep-away camp — Freaky Friday happens when your adorable child, who once was a helpless camper, becomes the person in charge. The all-knowing, all-responsible counselor.
I was thinking back to the first time son #1 went to camp. Husband #1 and I brought him to the bus, all nervous about sending our precious firstborn off to a faraway land. A land where the only form of communication was through letters. Handwritten letters. Do you remember those? If you were a really diligent parent, you would mail some letters before camp even started so there would be mail waiting for your child in camp. Now that is a good parent!
Handwritten letters came before the invention of bunk notes. Bunk notes, for those not familiar with them, are emails that you can send to your child and then those emails are printed out and delivered to your child’s bunk. This was a genius invention. A real money maker. And now the camps have their own version of bunk notes. When you are a first-time bunk note user, you write to your kid every night, trying to use every one of the characters allotted to you. As you get older and more tired, you fall asleep forgetting to write to your child, and as a result, your poor kid ends up getting no emails for a week and then 14 emails on the same day. Since you don’t want to waste the money you spent on these bunk notes, you end up writing to your kids’ friends who are in the same camp. Which can border on creepy, but you are getting your money’s worth, no matter what you need to do!
Back to son #1’s first summer in sleep away camp…we got to the bus and learned that his counselor was also the bus counselor. So, what is a crazy parent to do? Well, you start talking to the counselor. Telling him how special your kid is. How it is his first summer away from home and that he should be sensitive to that. How he is a picky eater, so please make sure they find something for him to eat. How it is hot out, so please make sure he drinks. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Keep in mind this counselor is all of 17 years old. Keep in mind that the counselor is looking at you like you are nuts. Keep in mind that this counselor is hoping that if he keeps nodding, you will think he is really listening to you and you will tip him accordingly.
And then your kid becomes that counselor. And you wonder when that happened. And you wonder how you ever thought that your kid’s counselor had as much power as you thought he did — and now parents are thinking that about your kid. (Which, of course, he does, because your kids are perfect.)
Yup, that is Freaky Friday — camp edition. Or just plain freaky. When I took son #3 to the bus stop, where he was the bus counselor, he actually brought it up. How weird it is for him not being the camper any more, being the counselor instead. It also is pretty funny that his older brother, son #2, is his direct supervisor, since he is the division head. As the mom, I think it is just adorable that one son is the other son’s boss.
But that is how life is. You go from being young to being old. You go from listening to those older and wiser to becoming the one who is older and wiser (in theory, not always in practice). And you hope that your kid’s counselor knows what he is doing when your kid has absolutely no clue.
Don’t worry, if your kids are in my kids’ bunk, they are in good hands…
Banji Ganchrow is the mother of three capable boys. In fact, she wishes they were as capable in private as they are in public. But that is for another column.