by Rabbi Nicole Guzik
Our children are at sleepaway camp. So far, we haven’t received any letters in the mail. I sent each kid with pre-addressed, pre-stamped postcards. And each day, my husband and I visit the mailbox and stare at its empty container, a reminder that most likely, those letters aren’t coming our way.
Now, when I explain to family and friends that we are letter-less, the response is, “No letters are a good thing! It means they are having a great time.” But my mom guilt goes into overdrive, and I can’t help but lay it on thick in my notes.
Don’t you think I deserve a letter back? Please write. Remember those stamped cards I spent all day and night pre-addressing? I remember my hand hurting afterward.
Have the best time ever.
While so many have shared that camp is the place where children learn independence and often come home with a stronger sense of maturity, I am wondering if sleepaway camp is truly a lesson for parents. In my four-week classroom, I am watching the relationships of family change and transform, witnessing the ways in which I rely on my children, and realizing how much guilt plays a factor in family dynamics. Do I really need a letter back from my children? No. Do I miss them? Yes. Do they deserve to be “guilted” into writing me back? No. Is this a lesson in separation and growth for all involved? 100 percent.
The Talmud teaches, “Always have the left hand push them away while the right hand draws them near.” Parenting is juggling. A balance of nudging our kids out of the nest while offering love and support. But the balance applies to adults as well. In all our deep relationships, we too need to be nudged, gaining a sense of individuality while maintaining ties of love and affection…minus the guilt.
May those we love feel embraced without feeling smothered. May those we adore feel care without feeling guilted. And through it all, we will all “grow up”. I won’t expect too many letters…but you better believe my arms will be wide open when my kids run off that bus.
My arms will always be open.
Nicole Guzik is a rabbi at Sinai Temple. She is married to Rabbi Erez Sherman and mother to Annie, Zachary, and Henry.