T’was the Night Before Summer Camp – Laura Fahrenthold – Author
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T’was the Night Before Summer Camp

T’was the night before summer camp and all through the house, not a teenager was stirring until the alarm clock went off at 1:45 am.



I’d been up since dawn anyway, having already deposited one daughter in Connecticut with another bike trip family heading to Manchester, NH. The ride share not only saved me 10 hours of solo driving, but also greatly reduced the stress in having to put her sister on a Greyhound bus at Port Authority for a 4 a.m. departure to Portland, Maine that same day.

“Bye, I love you Mom,” Susannah said sweetly as she readied to get into the nice family’s car, wrapping her arms around me and actually kissing my forehead. She normally kinda jokingly but also kinda not tells me I have “cooties” and to “get away.” Her sister is somewhat more tolerant and actually hugged me last year.

I often find myself missing that “I love you more than the moon and the stars and the whole big entgirlsire world” Mommy closeness so much that I sometimes sit on their beds and watch them sleep at night. They’re teenagers, but I can’t help myself. It ends up with a face full of tears as I imagine what it will be like to open their doors to emptiness when they go off to college in a few years.


I guess their bike trips — this three week separation–is putting me in heartbreak boot camp.

Private Fahrenthold-Pittman!

Drop the tissues and stop your wimpy sniveling!

On the ground and give me 20 pushups!

Now get your fat butt up and decide what to do with your life! You Moms complain about how the kids drive you nuts. Let’s see how you stand now!


But I do have plans, Sir!


I will clean the house from top to bottom and organize my paperwork, Sir!

I will juice every morning and go to the gym and play tennis, Sir!

I will work on my book, Sir!

But first, I wanted to kick off their bike trips by taking each out to a special dinner the night before their departures: Susannah on Friday and Nell on Saturday.

Susannah and I started off our evening well, both deciding we wanted seafood at a tennis club on the Hudson River. She even smiled for the camera!



The conversation was going well, meaning no fights, no  snipes, not even a glare. I was so proud of her for saying she doesn’t care if the kids on the bike trip will think she’s a loser if she wants to call me. (FAT CHANCE of that happening but still, there’s always the remote possibility that cows really do fly!) She says she doesn’t hang out with kids who judge her for this or that anyway, so nothing in her life is really an issue.


Let’s hear it for self-esteem!


The conversation continued along those lines until I apparently said something politically incorrect about the same-sex marriage law. I honestly can’t keep up with all the new terminology and just say live and let live! Love whomever you choose! Let your heart sing!


Her reaction to me saying “sex” instead of “gender” or something completely egregious like that was that of someone throwing cold water in her face. ShOckiNg!!!! She then proceeded to lecture me about political correctness for a good five minutes, showing remarkable intellectual poise.


“Maybe you want to change your mind about becoming a doctor and go to work as a civil rights attorney?” I asked in all seriousness after hearing her speech.


She said I was insulting her when I was really applauding her as evidenced by exhibit B (photo below): Notice how quickly the mood changed!



Once home, I googled “Why do teenage daughters hate their mothers so much?”


I came across a gazillion websites for that very subject, but WebMD’s stood out. In a new book, “You’re Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation,” Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., describes the intense connection between mothers and daughters–and how we press each other’s buttons.


She says it’s because women talk more than men, or as my friend Ethan says, “Men have four crayons in their Crayola boxes. Women have 64.”  The thing is, talk is the glue that holds a relationship together for women. But the more you talk, the more of a chance there is to become glued to the paper. Let’s face it. Women love to exchange secrets and talk about their feelings, which makes us even more vulnerable, especially to each other. Add to that a young woman’s intense self-scrutiny and her need to separate from her mother and there you have it: GOODBYE RV TRIPS WITH THE GIRLS! HELLO APOGEE BIKE TRIPS WITHOUT MOM!

When Nell appeared for our dinner date wearing jeans and a tank top, I should have told her I was hoping to take her somewhere less casual, but instead gave her the same look my mother gave me before she’d say, “You’re not wearing that, are you?”  This only made me want to wear whatever that was even more, just to PISS HER OFF! (Sorry Mom!)


Come to find out, the expert book writer lady says never to comment on your daughter’s appearance.


“Where the mother sees caring, the daughter sees her mother’s scrutiny as confirming her own fears-that she’s flawed,” says Tannen. “If a mother says that her daughter should lose 15 pounds, the daughter thinks she should probably lose 20. So it’s important, as a mother, not to offer advice or criticism-especially about appearance-unless you are asked. And even then, be careful.”


Lesson learned!


There was really no point in trying to make conversation after this. Each attempt was shot down like the Cuban Missile Crisis. She clearly wanted to be at the party with her friends, not out to dinner with me.


We took most of the dinner home and were in bed by 10:00 p.m.


“Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey,” I said to her a few hours later when 1:45 a.m. alarm hit.


“You know I hate it when you say that to me!” she snarled.


“Say what? What did I say?” I asked feigning innocence as I squinted in the ceiling fan light. “All I said was: “WAKEY WAKEY EGGS AND BAKEY!


OK, I knew exactly what I was doing and it was working like a bouquet of flowers on Valentine’s Day.


I guess I was still pretty put off over our last supper together.


Like, whatever.


Still, it was time to go and yes, I left two hours to get to the Port Authority bus terminal, a trip that normally take about 20 minutes, just in case something unexpected happened such as the giant rain storm that hit the second we got on the highway.


Then I stupidly went to the Port Authority train terminal NOT THE PORT AUTHORUTY BUS TERMINAL, but didn’t realize the sleep deprived mistake until we’d parked and ran three blocks in the rain to go into the wrong place. We were now soaking wet, out of time and stressed.


“Don’t yell at me young lady!” I yelled at her.


“I’m not yelling at you, you’re yelling at me,” she yelled at me.


It was now 3:38 a.m. which meant we had 22 minutes to drive nine blocks, park, run in the rain carrying the three duffle bags again, buy the ticket, and get her on the bus. We made it with seven minutes to spare, only the self service ticket machines were not functioning.


nell in lineThe people in line were nice enough to let us go ahead of them which meant we made it within seconds of the doors slamming shut in her face.


Good thing they had AED defibrillators on the wall– I almost could have used one when she actually said “I love you” and hugged me goodbye!


A few hours later, she texted me from Portland to say she’d arrived. By that time, I was treating myself to breakfast in bed: last night’s Indian food with eggs.


B&BIt’s where I remained all rainy day, reading and writing and missing my girls, Sir!


  1. Mel Goldstein says:

    Hi Laura. Thanks for sharing your trials and tribulations; all part of parenting. “And this too shall pass.”
    Enjoy your 3 week vacation.

  2. g.n.pittman says:

    love your kid stories …. I am a very old man and have done a lot of things … been so lucky , all my life ,,, good family ,, good jobs ,,, good people around me ,,just lucky ,,, but the great times I remember are the times I spent with my two boys ,,, just the three of us …..thanks again and keep it up…..