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Camp Songs for Neurotic Parents

Anxious about sending your kids to camp? Don’t just fret—sing along to some of your favorite songs.

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This week, many Jewish kids—mine included—return from the first session of sleepaway camp. Maybe yours are getting ready right now for the second session. Or maybe they’re staying for both sessions and you’re in withdrawal. Whatever the case, this summer your kids will be learning a lot of camp songs, often the same ones you learned yourself many years ago. (A lot has changed since you went to camp—cell phones, social media, the need to fill out gazillions of legal forms before your child is allowed to breach the camp gates—but, as Led Zeppelin once said, the song remains the same.)

But why should kids be the only ones singing? Camp is an important touchstone for parents, too: It marks our children’s growing independence, a social and emotional life in which we’re no longer central, the beginning of the end of childhood. And that’s a source of anxiety for some parents, especially the ones who really, really don’t want to let go.

That’s why we’ve rewritten some familiar camp songs for today’s over-invested, lunatic helicopter parent! Some are Jewish camp classics; some are beloved American folksongs. You can sing them to yourself when you’re feeling weepy—missing your child, missing your youth, missing a world of possibility that is now utterly closed to you as you face a future of loneliness and the grave. Sing them to yourself, sniffling, as you stare at photos on the camp website, hitting “refresh” repeatedly, searching desperately for images of your child, reading all kinds of import into her body language and facial expressions and ratcheting yourself into a sphincter-tight little nubbin of anxiety. Or if you have a modicum of self-awareness, you can sing them to remind yourself not to be such a sentimental, tightly wound freak.

So, press play and have a listen to this medley of camp songs for neurotic parents. (Credit to Avi Fox-Rosen for the musical arrangements and Sarah Gordon for most of the singing—although you’ll hear yours truly chiming in, too.) Click the titles to hear the original songs; the new lyrics are below, so you can sing along.

On Top of Spaghetti

On top of the bunk bed …
All covered with sand
My Jacob could fall off
And break his right hand
My husband’s a lawyer
If my son ends up dead
We’ll sue all the counselors
Jake gets the bottom bed.


Hallelujah, sing a song …
Hallelujah, the kids are all gone
For one month my darling hubby and I
Will be alone with the stars in the sky
And all I want to know is just one thing …

Oh my God, WHAT will we talk about?
Oh my God, oy, I’m brimming with doubt.
We last talked in 2002
Without the kids, I guess I should talk to you …
When’s visiting day?

Blowin’ in the Wind

How many times must I tell you, my son
To lend out your hat is a sin
And don’t you dare borrow a comb or a brush
And stay away from the rock-climbing helmet
And don’t let your sis share barrettes or her tees
Before you give me agita
The lice aren’t your friends; they’re racing through the camp
And the lice lady costs an arm and a leg.

(Salaam) Od Yavu Shalom Aleinu

Don’t forget to use the bug spray
Don’t forget to use the bug spray
Don’t forget to use the bug spray
Or you’ll get ticks.

The ticks!
Are they worse than the DEET in the spray?
Oh God, the choice!
No peace!
I should have sent him to the chess camp
It is indoors.

This Land Is Your Land

This camp is your camp
It isn’t my camp
You need your selfhood
Your therapist said so
You need some distance
You need to individualize
This camp was made but not for me.

Gesher Tzar Me’Od

All the world is like
A very narrow bridge
A very narrow bridge
A very narrow bridge
All the world is like
A very narrow bridge
A very narrow bridge
And the main thing is to recall
To keep away from the edge.
And to drink enough water.
But mostly to keep away from the edge.

Birkat Hamazon

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam,
Is my child really gonna make us sing this, every day,
After every last meal now that camp is done?
Who knows how long this phase is gonna last
We wanted him to love
Being Jewish but oy oy oy
This is ambivalence right here!
Maybe if the camp director
Had let him keep his cell
We wouldn’t worry that he’d give up bacon.
Now I feel like the schmo hagadol
‘cause we eat Chinese food with some pork
And we love his commitment
But it’s freaking us out
And we hate to admit
That we hope this is a phase.
Baruch Attah Adonai, who gives us Jewish camp.


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panbob says:

Once as a high school columnist I assayed an attempt at humor which a classmate-critic evaluated with timeless accuracy, “Not very funny but it shows determination.” #

ljhomes says:


TheHolyBeggar says:

As a former camp counselor at Jewish camps (and those where there were very few Jews), I know that children bring home an enthusiasm that the parents find sometimes hard to keep up during the rest of the year. So there’s a choice … try to meet the new, elevated standard of Jewish ritual observance and pride, or participate in its deflation. Parents (usually) do not blindly pick camps for their kids, In many ways camps do what the parents can’t / don’t at home. What is needed is for the parents to go to their own camp once in a while and get a booster shot of pride building Jewish experience.

We had Alan Sherman’s “Hello mudda … Hello fadda …” parody that was projected from a camper’s POV. It was funny – ish because it was respectful in a classic, awkward way.

what about: Oy Oy Oy, my jewish boy what ever happened to my little jewish boy went to a camp, called Bilium, came back and had a wet dream, Oy Oy Oy my jewish boy…. unfortunately I forget the rest of the words as this song originated from the eastern canadian young judea camp system and I am from the western system so it isnt stuck in my brain like: Alla Man Alla Man Alla Man Diego San Diego Hocus Pocus Domi Nokus Yah Kochot Yah Kochot When your up your up When your down your down When your up your up your upside down Kick him in the head Kick him in the teeth this year’s Kochot cant be beat Yah Kochot. Kochot were the 13 and 14 year olds. 15 year olds were Masada. and under 13 were hatikvah.


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Camp Songs for Neurotic Parents

Anxious about sending your kids to camp? Don’t just fret—sing along to some of your favorite songs.

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