Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp

It’s been a while since I posted. Partly, this is because writing books, while a fine way to make a living, has the unfortunate side effect of decreasing the amount of time I can spend writing blog posts that have absolutely no financial value whatsoever.

Mostly, though, it’s because I haven’t had any good ideas for blog posts.

Sadly, that’s still the case. But in honor of my oldest son’s imminent departure for summer camp, I thought I’d dig into my archives and post the following letter, which I sent to him while he was at camp last summer.

If you enjoy reading this kind of thing, please post a comment to that effect — if there’s sufficient interest in my continuing to exploit my family for material, I’ll post others.

August 3, 2012

Dear Xxxx [not his real name],

By the time you get this letter, over a month will have passed since I dropped you off (nauseous and underfed, but really, whose fault was that?) at the airport departure gate.

Which means I have gone an entire month without writing you a single letter.

I apologize for that. But it has been quite a busy month. As you may know, the Olympics are currently underway in London, and when I was driving back from dropping you off at the airport, it occurred to me that at 41 years old, I am not getting any younger, and this may be my last chance to represent my country in an Olympic event.

So I spent the next three weeks in intensive training at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, hoping to secure a spot on the national judo team.

I was unsuccessful.

And I can tell you this: it stung. Words cannot express the pain of seeing your dreams collapse into dust, even if they are dreams you only had for a couple of weeks.

Also, judo itself is painful. Some of the other fighters are pretty merciless, even in practice, and the fact that I was not an “official” member of the squad—and so was facing them not in the practice ring, but in the parking lot as they walked to their cars at the end of the day—meant that our bouts usually ended in a few seconds, with a submission hold resulting in loss of consciousness.

At least, I think that’s how it went down. I kept waking up in the parking lot, to the sound of cars pulling away, and with no short-term memory of the previous several minutes. (Here’s a fact, by the way, that might surprise you—in my experience, the women’s judo team is much more ruthless in combat than the men’s team, especially if you startle them while they are holding a set of car keys).

So that was a tough three weeks. After it was over, I went through a period of soul-searching. Judo had been my whole life, at least for the better part of July, and once it was gone, I felt a yawning emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill.

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to fill it with letter writing. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I’m in a much better place now. And I’ve learned a lot, too—about the value of hard work, the wisdom of letting go, and why you should never challenge a martial arts expert to a fight in a parking lot.

What else can I tell you? It turns out it was a mistake to rent your room out to the elderly Uzbek man who smelled like rotten cheese. His check bounced, and when we confronted him about it, he skipped out on us. So, lesson learned. But we can’t get rid of the rotten cheese smell in your room, so I guess in a manner of speaking, he’s still with us.

Zzzz [my youngest son; also not his real name] has been difficult lately. I now think that among our family members, he is more likely than Yyyy [my middle son; ditto] to end up in jail. His soccer camp counselors think so, too.

Your mother—as she may have already told you—will not be contacting [Xxxx’s friend]’s mom about the summer reading list, or mailing you the appropriate books, because this is the kind of thing that you are old enough to be responsible for yourself. There will be plenty of time to read the books when you get home, unless you blow it all playing Ipad Monopoly or watching Storage Wars.

I hope you are having a great time! We miss you.

Love, Dad

(Click here for Part Two of Letters to My Kid At Summer Camp.)

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