The day after school ends, I take my kids to “Camp Grandparents.” I fly out with the kids, stay a week with my family then fly home, leaving -year-old and 12-year-old behind.
Prep for our yearly ritual starts during the last week of school. For me, it’s one of the most hectic weeks of school: second-grade graduation, flurries of unintelligible artwork, my daughter’s last minute book report, and teacher gifts. Packing for a long trip is the last thing I want to add to our family to do lists.
No one in our family is stressed about it. I lied. My mom’s phone calls micromanaging our packing stresses me out a tiny bit. I listen to her advice and nod my way through our phone calls. It’s how she expresses her love and excitement of having her grandchildren spend half the summer with her.
Both sets of grandparents live several states away from us. We stay in touch via phone calls and Skype. Summer is when they get face time with their extended family. My son and daughter spend the first part of summer with my parents and the other half with my in-laws.
The first few summers were tough for me. On the surface, the grandparents’ values seemed different from the ones I wanted to instill in our family. How would my kids deal with my parents’ strict rules and high expectations? I certainly didn’t enjoy growing up in that environment. Would they be emotionally scarred after four weeks?
I shouldn’t have been worried because the opposite happened. My mom plied the kids with sweets at all hours of the day. Let them strew papers and wrappers all over her home (but complaining about picking up after them). My father bought them any toy they asked for.
My in-laws, worried for my kids’ souls, took to Sunday church services and enrolled them in vacation bible school. (Though we were raised in religious homes, my husband and I are not part of an organized religion.) My mother-in-law was thrilled to have someone to bake for and whipped up desserts for them almost every day.
As much as I worried, neither side of the family emotionally scarred or spoiled my children. In fact, my son and daughter thrived. Though, we set some ground rules about sweets and bedtimes for consequent summers. My husband and I decided a little exposure to different religions wasn’t a bad thing.
Camp Grandparents has more advantages. They grow closer to their grandparents while they are immersed in their different heritages each summer. My mother has taught my kids how to make Vietnamese egg rolls. They help my father with his garden. My mother-in-law feeds them her delicious soul food and introduces them to cousins my husband didn’t even know he had.
The kids come home happy, knowing they are loved unconditionally by their families.
Sending the kids away was a learning experience for me as well. I learned to let go and trust our family. After all, they raised me and my husband. We came out fine.
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