Keeping Up With the Joneses or Telling the Joneses Where to Go

It’s the week before Christmas break and I’ve been stuck at home with my little guy. He’s all coughing and feverish, but thankfully a good patient and mostly rational. He’s currently doing the whole Netflix and chill sort of thang in his bed when he’s not taking frequent naps.

In between playing board games, disinfecting the house, washing endless amounts of laundry, I’ve been plagued by a few of things that feel very much out of my control, but also well within my right to want to rage against.

I live in an area where the Joneses are alive and well and failure to keep up with them can leave one feeling dejected and much like an outsider. What’s got my back up against a wall these past few days? Talk of day camp versus sleep away camp and bar mitzvah dates doled out four years in advance. Which to tackle first? Okay, I’m just going to dive right in and hope that writing this all out will release the bubbling rage that I feel slowly rising from my toes. Всем азартным игрокам всегда открыты двери на And when I’m done, I am sure it will be evident that this rage is ridiculous in the first place.

The topic of sleep away versus day camp constantly presents itself. “Is your son going?” “Did you tour camps?” “He doesn’t want to go?!” “You don’t want to send him?” “Which camps are you considering?”

Now, don’t get me wrong. The idea of sleep away camp sounds amazing. Seven weeks (didn’t it used to be eight weeks?) of knowing my kid is growing and learning independence in the country air making new friends sounds incredible. And in some ways, parenting one less kid for seven weeks also sounds amazing. Especially today when I have two kvetchy fever kids at home keeping me trapped inside my house like a prisoner to the laundry and lysol spray.

I’ve got to be honest about a few things here. I never went to sleep away camp, so it’s never been a huge personal priority for my kids to go. A teen tour, for sure (*wink wink, Eric Molbegat), but my husband, brother, and cousins all went, so it’s always been on my radar. I guess now that the time has come, I’m mixed with a strange menagerie of emotions. As much as my children drive me crazy all year, I actually really look forward to our summers together, chasing the ice cream truck (“Stop running. Stay out of the road. He’s going to run you over”), going to the beach (“You’re too far out. Come back.”), heading upstate to the bungalow colony I grew up at, road trips, and more. I like the laid back feel of summer evenings, when mystery rides can ensue without the worry of homework or responsibilities. But… when we visited sleep away camp, I fell in love. I wanted to go (to which my husband said I should go and work there – ha! – Who will take care of the kids?!).

Almost all of my friends are sending their older children off to sleep away camp this coming summer and many of them sent their kids last summer too. While there are moments when my son expresses his interest in going, he’s also really close with his day camp friends and kind of very excited for another summer at his camp. He looks forward to Sports League and riding the unicycle and the privilege that comes with being an older kid on camp campus.

In my area, amongst many of the Jews, sleep away is a MUST and if you’re not sending your kid, it’s often a feeling of, “what’s wrong with your kid that he doesn’t want to go?” (Time Out: Not everyone makes me feel this way and MORE power to the people that know what they want right from the start and know what will work for their kids and their family right from the start. In some ways, I envy your decisiveness, but my family is led by two Pisces and we’re definitely not there yet…) Throw into the mix the astronomical amount of money it costs to go to sleep away camp and we’ve kind of felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. I guess for now, I have to be grateful that my son is excited for another summer at day camp with great friends and see where we are next summer. So for all those that feel pressure to keep up with the joneses, I’m not! We’re paving our own path and seeing where it takes us….. And this summer, I may just convince the husband to take us on a BIG family road trip where we explore and attempt not to murder one another.

And now onto the other BIG issue that my husband refuses to talk about because it’s ridiculous and four years away but we live in a town where everyone talks about it and makes plans four years in advance…. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah! And the BIG fight over dates. According to our temple president, friendships have been lost and wars have been waged over the mitzvah dates. Holy hell!

We submitted our dates and were expected to know when and what we wanted fours years from now. People, I can barely make plans week to week thanks to three kids and a dog and unexpected viruses and my husband’s inconsistent work schedule. So sure, I know exactly how my introverted nine year old will want to celebrate his thirteenth birthday. Makes a whole lot of sense. I really don’t want to buy into the nonsense, but again, I live in an area where I kind of have no choice. So a date and time has been selected and maybe, just maybe in two years, I’ll have a better sense of where and what we want to do to celebrate my son becoming a man in the Jewish religion…..

Let me add to that, I really don’t want to rush away the next four years of his life because I’ve been given an arbitrary date. I come from a family of party people and my Bat Mitzvah was the party of the year – maybe the decade (thanks mom and dad), but I’m trying to pave my own way here too by attempting to evaluate what will work for my child, my family, our finances (even though I’d love an excuse to buy a party dress and dance all night long). I can totally see that for my middle son and even my little, but I have a feeling my older one will have his own plan in mind when the time comes…

I actually came to a realization this week that sort of shocked me in a way. I am not an over-scheduler. I really give the kids’ activities a lot (I mean a lot) of thought before I commit, making sure to coordinate the afternoons we need to be out of the house so that we aren’t out every evening. What I realized this week being trapped in my house and unable to take my kids to any of their activities is that in reality, I am actually over scheduled. As bummed as I am that my kids haven’t been well and we’ve had to miss our activities, I felt relief. The big ones came off the bus and hopped into the shower. We were in jammies early and we had time to do homework, unwind, play board games, and my big one and I even had quality alone time to read Harry Potter together. It was glorious. And I know so many moms in my area feel the same way, but there’s so much pressure always to be in every class and doing every activity.

Okay, I’m actually feeling a little bit better now that I’ve shared all of this. I hope this inspires you, wherever you are and whomever you are, to remember to do what feels right for YOU and to tell the Joneses where they can stick it! And if the feeling creeps up on you that you’re not keeping up, remind yourself that there are MANY of us alongside you, scrambling to figure out our own paths! Stay the course and stay happy wherever your personal journey takes you!