“Some of my best encounters with our children are the ones they don’t know about,” writes Slate’s chief political correspondent John Dickerson on watching his children grow and change after going away to camp. Comparing his children’s experience to his own memories, Dickerson observes that he can take a look into their lives and behavior through listening to their stories about camp. In his daughter’s case, he peered into her “parent-less natural habitat” upon visiting her at camp.
But my daughter seemed so much more in command and unburdened than the young John Dickerson. When I went to camp, I was the same little person transported to a new place. She goes to camp to be someone different. That’s why she’s so keen to get there. That’s what the short haircut was about. It had its downside, of course. On the first night, counselors doing the quick sort sent her and her bags to the boys’ camp. … This is a different girl than the one I remember. I wish I had been that way. I wish I were that way now. This was the unexpected wonder of the trip. It was fun to observe the new her, but the surprise was listening to other people describe her. They didn’t have my fuzzy lenses mucked up with emotion and memory and duty. She told me that Annie, the counselor who taught her the ukulele, said, “You have great things ahead of you.” “Didn’t you think that already?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “but it was nice to hear it coming from her too.”