NAKED MONTH: Confessions of a “Summer” Empty Nester

By Tracy Zirin

I love summer. Summer means NO schedule, warm nights, eating al fresco, outdoor concerts, after dinner ice cream, AND that my kids leave for camp. For us, this is a time we call “Naked Month.”

I do realize that not every kid is an “overnight camper” and not every parent has the option or desire for his/her kids to go away for a week, let alone a month or two.

I believe that you have to respect your wishes and those of your kids … that said …

Why shouldn’t everyone have a little ‘Naked Month … or  Naked Weekend … or Naked Day’ in their year?

Let’ start with why I believe camp is a win-win in my family. Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. I do. But I also really love it when they are happily ensconced in a messy, stiflingly hot cabin of too many kids their own age a few hours from home.

Here are some of the reasons I believe that camp is an invaluable gift we can give our children:

–  Independence  — They are on their own to advocate for themselves as necessary.  There is no Mom or Dad to fight their social battles, handle their headaches or make them an alternate dinner “because don’t you remember I HATE chicken this week!?” They learn they can actually navigate situations all on their own.

–   New Experiences — They get to do things they cannot do at home. Waterski, shoot a gun, climb a wall, sail, build a fire and dress in purple from head to toe and run around like idiots (well, sometimes they also do that at home). They get to try new things, often things they would never do if we were there.

 NO Technology — They actually must to speak to their friends … in person. There is no texting, email, Facebook or Instagram.  No one can send a Group Chat and leave out a child. There are no posts that show who is where and doing what … it is good, old fashioned, NON-technical fun.  This might just be my favorite part.

While parents of overnight campers will no doubt agree with the above, let’s get real people.  We also love them to be at camp because we get a little taste of the empty nester lifestyle … and get to participate in Naked Month.

Of course, not all of Naked Month is actually spent naked, there is work and meals out and movies and concerts.

The essence of Naked Month, the true meaning of this magical time, is that we get to do what we want, when we want. The kids are safe, incredibly happy, busy, and we are ON OUR OWN.  As parents, this is a perfect storm …  and a true rarity.

It is a time to rediscover your partner.  Remember why you like each other and that you have more in common that just what the kids did or did not do correctly on any given day.  You get to decide at a moment’s notice to see a movie or go out for a meal. And, you really can walk around the house naked if you want.

It is a time to rediscover yourself.  Paint or read or walk or just do nothing. All of these things and more are not only valid but so needed every once in a while.

Oh, and let’s not forget the wine and cocktails. You can take a drive and end up staying overnight. You can take a vacation and not have to write out a four-page schedule for whoever is watching the kids. It is some “you” time or “couple time” that feels like a really good break from our overscheduled lives.

For those whose kids are not into overnight camp; for families who love the unscheduled time of summer togetherness; or for people who cannot send or do not want to send their kids away for so long, I say: Find some time for yourself as a grown-up this summer. Swap your kids for a day or two with friends, and return the favor.  Let Grandma and Grandpa or Aunts and Uncles get some quality time with the kids. Then get naked … or if not naked, then just go out for dinner or a walk or just talk sans the interruption.

After my kids are gone for a while and come back, I feel a little more appreciation for them and a little more tolerance toward the messes and laziness and inevitable missteps they make … at least for the first 10-15 minutes they are home.

Believe me, I will be among the first cars in line to get into camp on the last day to see my kids and will for sure cry (a happy cry) when I see their faces.  But I will also look forward to Naked Month next summer for the reboot I get with my husband and the appreciation I feel for my kids.  I am so grateful for the gift of camp for all of us.

LB:  All I can say here is Amen! Hey GIRLillas, would love to hear your comments …



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