‘Grandma Camp’ Is An Exciting Ritual, But Changes Are Coming


Each year, I clear my calendar for the month of June because that is the month of Grandma Camp.

Grandma Camp is an extremely flexible flurry of days designed to handle drop-off, pickup, food and entertainment for one grandson, age 10, or one granddaughter, age 8, when the other one is at scout camp, dive camp, play dates or other activities. Its motto is “No Sibling Left Behind!”

With my background in early childhood education and special event planning, a deep-rooted fear of any child feeling “less than” and absolutely no desire for financial reimbursement, I am the perfect person for this job, if I do say so myself.

I start planning Grandma Camp while the kids are still in school, researching pool hours, child-friendly museums, movies, water parks, amusement parks, puppet shows, kids’ theater and anything special going on at the mall. For the kids, I set aside $10 bills.

“Tess,” I say, on day one. “Orion is at scout camp for the next 10 days. We are going to go places and do things, but I don’t want you constantly nagging me to buy stuff. So, I am going to give you $10 each day, and that is your budget for the day. When it’s gone, it’s gone.”

“Does food count?”

“No, I will pay for your food.”

“What about snacks?”

“I will pay for snacks that we share.”

“What if I don’t spend it all? Does the remainder carry over to the next day?

“For crying out loud! Do you work for the FDIC or what!?” I take a moment to calm myself. “Yes, it carries over.”

By the time her brother returned, I estimated that the 10 days spent with Tess cost me $549, not counting her $10 a day.

The next week, I watched Orion while Tess was away at camp.

“Orion, do you want to go to the movies?”


“What about miniature golf?”


“Should we go to that game shop and get you some new magic cards?”

“Would they come out of my $10 a day?”

“I was thinking they could be a part of your birthday gift.”

“OK, let’s go.”

Ten days later, Tess returned sunburned and happy. Over the course of her absence, I’d spent a total of $58.50 on Orion. He also went home with $90 in his pocket. If anyone works for the FDIC, it’s him.

When I returned the children to their parents at the end of June, I told my daughter, “You know, Jen, 10 years ago when you asked me to help take care of your babies, I never expected to get in this deep. But I’m so glad I did. Every day has been a joy.”

I started to get misty-eyed. “I’m glad I bought a second home here. I’m glad I established a shop here. In short, I’m glad to be here with you guys.”

Jen took a step forward and put her arms around me. “Mom,” she said, matter-of-factly. “I just took a job in Arkansas. We’re moving.”