‘Grandma Camp’ Used To Be Fun… Not So Much Anymore!


When I was about 10 years old, my best friend Bonnie and I attended Camp Silverbrook, a Girl Scout day camp held among the towering trees, crunchy leaves, non-venomous bugs and sparkling blue waters of Wisconsin. We had visions of campfires, swimming, boating and all those good things a camp should be.

Camp Silverbrook was none of those things. Camp Silverbrook (where it rained two days out of five) took a bunch of high-energy girls and confined them to little campsites where we sat on oilcloth-covered mats (aptly and boringly called “sit-upons”), sang songs we didn’t know, shuffled through the woods identifying nothing and made ugly necklaces out of yarn and walnuts. No swimming, no boating and absolutely no fires. It was hugely disappointing and, to make matters worse, Bonnie was assigned to the troop where my mother was assisting. I was assigned to a troop where I didn’t know anyone, and the leaders were uninspired strangers. I spent the whole miserable time looking over to see what my creative and fun mother had come up with for Bonnie to do.

Still, each year for the “bridge week” between the end of school and the beginning of summer camp, I take the grandchildren for Grandma Camp. It’s not held in the woods; it’s held in my house, and it is widely known that, during this week, the kids will be showered with new toys, be given all the candy they want, be allowed to stay up late and be returned to their parents with a slim two days left for them to assess and repair the damage I have done.

It’s fun for me; it’s fun for the kids.

But recently, while my daughter struggled to work from home, teach two grade levels from home and help her husband keep their little home farm going, it has been Grandma Camp several days a week. And wouldn’t you know? Once I was put in the position of both incurring and repairing the damage caused my grandchildren, I scaled it back. Instead of Pinocchio at Pleasure Island, it has been more like Debbie at Camp Silverbrook. No one gets a toy until they pick up all the old toys. Candy is distributed sparingly and judiciously. Bedtime is 9 p.m. And schoolwork is not sloughed off, but supervised to the best of my ability.

To make matters worse, there are no field trips to swimming pools, movies or fast food franchises. There are no manic shopping days at the toy store. There are no long bike rides to the park. Even cookie-baking has been put on the back burner (ha!) because grandma’s figure can’t afford to have any more baked goods lying around.

You’d think that, especially with all these restrictions, things would be proceeding responsibly.


No, things have still managed to go off the rails.

Because while I was in the kitchen, explaining to 7-year-old Skippy why he could not spend hour number three on his iPad, the Netflix movie that 5-year-old Tess was watching ended and, inexplicably, something like the “Jerry Springer Show” came on. By the time I got back to the bedroom, Tessie was totally engaged, eyes glued to the set as a skimpily clad small person (yes, what used to be called a midget) completed a pole dance to thunderous applause.

“Tess!” I shrieked. “What are you watching?”

“She dances all unappropriate!” Tess replied. “I love it!”

There’s no way my daughter can be spared this news. It is sure to come up in polite company, maybe when Tess asks her father to install a pole in her bedroom.

Right now, Camp Silverbrook is starting to look pretty good.