Op-eds

Trommel and strife

  • Howard Feldman 2018
This weekend, we will be celebrating. All of our camp going children will have left for three weeks, and we intend to enjoy every second of it. I intend kicking off the event by using the word “me” in a conversation with my wife, and I fully expect her to do the same.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Dec 05, 2019

By the weekend, all our home living children will have left for three weeks, and we fully intend not to miss them. At least not until Monday. Sunday at the earliest.

I was magnificent and patient as a father until I happened upon a list of “must haves” that was left on the dining room table. Whereas I was delighted that my 15-year-old daughter was organised enough to make lists, the content pushed me slightly over the edge. Listed as item number one on the critical list, ahead of “underwear”, and above “toothbrush” was “Saphira – leave in mud pour tous types de cheveux (for all types of hair)”.

“Abby! Come here please!” I called so that I could address this face to face. “You are going to camp! You are sleeping in a tent for three weeks. It will rain, and the entire campsite will turn into a mud wrestling amphitheatre. Do you really need to take more mud to Hartenbos, for G-d’s sake?” She returned my stare without saying a word. Then she turned, looked at my wife, shook her head slowly as if to say, “I actually feel sorry for you living with a buffoon that’s so out of touch and doesn’t understand sun damage. Then quietly and very patronisingly she said, “It’s French mud, dad. It’s French mud.” And with that, the conversation was over, and I was shamefully dismissed.

It’s a myth that when kids go on camp, us parents get a holiday. What it does mean is that everything we need to do over a three-week time period now has to be taken care of in a matter of a few days. It means that money that we would have spent over a month we spend in days, and that all the arguments we would have had are had with no intervals.

It took us five trommels, three stretchers, tent reflectors, countless bottles of water (some sparkling some still), peanut butter sachets, muesli, tuna, and more toiletries than Mossel Bay has ever seen, medicine, sun block, and a bottle of Saphira – leave in mud pour tous types de cheveux to get three of our children camp ready.

And we are still, apparently, not happy with the colour of the trommels, the brand of our shower shoes, and the quality of our disposable bowls.

Bless them.

The reality is that although our children might take their mobile phones with them to camp, for the time that they are there, they will be stepping back into the world that we want them to enjoy. Three weeks in a Jewish-observant environment with their friends, in the sun, sleeping in tents, in a healthy and caring environment that is not technology dependent is rare and special.

With a zero tolerance policy against drugs and alcohol, and with my poor 15-year-old daughter having two eagle-eyed brothers on the same campsite, it’s truly a blessing that we don’t take for granted. The reality is that it gives them time to find out who they are without their annoying parents telling them who they want them to be.

And, of course, as parents, having banked everything we have to get them ready, we get to take it a bit easier while they are there.

This weekend we will be celebrating. Come past if you want. Bring your own pour tous types de cheveux. Just don’t bring your children.

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