Searching for my kids in camp pictures is turning me into a crazy person

I am going INSANE. Like literally, someone needs to strap me into a straight jacket and lock me in a padded cell WITHOUT any internet. And here’s why.

This week we sent Zoey to overnight camp, and while not having her around makes me feel like I’m missing a limb, that’s not why I’m going crazy. She wanted to go. I wanted to send her. So yes I miss her to death, but missing her is not what’s gonna send me to the loony bin. But I’ll tell you what is.

So every day at her camp, there’s this awesome photographer who goes around all day taking pictures of the campers, and then they post the pictures online for the parents to see. They do this for two reasons. One, so we can see what our money has paid for so we’ll keep wanting to spend bazillions of dollars on camp year after year. And two, so we won’t go too crazy missing our kids. Only the complete opposite is happening to me.

Because here’s the thing. They don’t post the pictures at one certain time of the day. They might post a batch at 10am and then they’ll add a few more at 12pm and then suddenly at 9pm like 40 more pictures appear. So I am CONSTANTLY checking the website. Like literally right after I typed that sentence, I went and checked it again.

And there are HUNDREDS of pictures, and your kid might be in front of the camera smiling ear-to-ear or she might be wayyyy in the background in a sea of other campers, and if you’re a desperate mom like me, you’ll comb through each and every picture searching for even the tiniest glimpse of your kiddo. Wait, is that her elbow? Do I see her ear behind that group? And you’re examining all the shoes and clothes to see if you recognize anything of hers. I shit you not. Like here are a few of the pictures I’ve found of Zoey.

And it gets worse. Because I am also constantly reading into each and every picture. Is she smiling? Is she frowning? Why is she hanging out with girls from another cabin? Is it because the girls in her own cabin don’t like her? Oh, there she is with a girl from her own cabin. Phew. And she’s wearing a bandana and another girl in her cabin is wearing a bandana. Maybe they’re friends! I am like a detective examining each and every picture to try to figure out how she is doing. 

And then suddenly I log on at 4:00 (even though I just logged on at 3:52) and I stumble upon this picture.

Ohhhh shit, here comes the tailspin. Yup, I am about to hit rock bottom. This is a picture of Zoey on a paddle board in the lake. And I can see her cabinmates are also on paddle boards, only they all have two kids per paddle board and Zoey’s all alone.


Zoey has always been a little afraid of water and didn’t want to share a paddle board with someone else because she needs to be in control, and the photographer took a candid shot while she was looking out at the water.


All the girls partnered up and Zoey asked one of them to be her partner and the girl said no in a bitchy way and now Zoey is stewing in anger and sadness and the rest of camp is going to be awful for her.

So I show my hubby the picture and tell him I’m worried. And he reminds me of alllllllll the pictures we’ve seen of her smiling and how this is literally just one moment of a long day and how it would be weird if she were smiling constantly. And I know he’s right. He’s right, right? Is he right? What if he’s wrong? Urrrghh, I don’t know. I’m back to tailspin mode. My mind is freaking out again.

And I literally don’t feel better until hours later (I’ve now checked the website 473 more times) when I jump on and see this…

Look, that’s someone’s hand on her shoulder!!! She must have a friend!

And this…

OMG, she had fun in the whipped cream battle!

And then this…

Look! She’s happy!!!!

And I’m at peace. For a few minutes at least.

Because then it’s back to driving myself crazy again. Like right now I just checked and they put up some Fantastic Friday pictures, but there are zero pictures of Zoey. So now I’m convinced she’s dead or missing and they just haven’t called me yet. Hopefully that’ll change when I check again in a few minutes. And by a few minutes, I mean seconds. Aww screw it, I’m checking now.

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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Rachel at 7:41 pm

    Oy mama I totally understand. The only way I made it through my son’s 1st two weeks at sleepaway camp was phish food ice cream. Like, constant supply. Camp is soooooooo good for them but it’s sooooooooo hard to trust the world with our babies. I’m hoping it makes college easier on all of us. Hugs!!

  2. Messy at 7:47 pm

    I was the exact same way this summer. My kids had never been to sleepover camp and this year was now or never. I too was looking at the website all day long. You are not alone!! My aunt had a story of when she sent my cousin to sleepover camp. She picked him up and he got off the bus and said “my pencil broke” she was upset that he had not written her all week oh and he knew it by her face. At least we have pictures to look at all week. I will admit I was holding back tears waiting to pick them up after that week I could not wait to get my hands on them.

  3. Ann Mark at 7:59 pm

    My kids (11yo boy & 10yo girl) just got back from separate sleep away camps. Best thing we ever did! They loved it! I was also a photo maniac. At least my daughter’s camp had a photo app with facial recognition… downside, she looked miserable without context all the time. My son’s camp posted pictures at a set time, twice per week- 400/500 of them! So I comes through those individually.

    They both want to go back next year- start selling organs, kiddos…

  4. Tracy Beattie at 8:26 pm

    Promise yourself that you will check in for one hour every night around 9 pm while enjoying a glass of wine with Mr. Sideburns. Divide and conquer. Plan the rest of your day to keep busy away from electronics. Camp is great for kids – the ups & downs build character.

  5. Kelli Carlin-Auger at 8:31 pm

    I TOTALLY get you!! Just wait until she goes to college! We live in Alaska and our oldest daughter chose to go to college in New York. Just ask my husband how many times I was CONVINCED she was missing and MUST of been kidnapped because she didn’t answer her phone!! 4 VERY STRESSFUL YEARS!! Now she’s married and lives on the east coast and I still stress out when I can’t get in touch with her immediately! At least her husband knows what a worry wart I am!

  6. Cheri at 10:28 pm son is at boot camp and I am scrolling through every day trying to find him. There are a hundred young men with shaved heads wearing the exact same uniform. It’s a struggle.

  7. Holly Ota at 10:33 pm

    I did this once myself! My daughter was beginning 8th grade at a new school and because it was a pretty nice private school they had a photographer documenting the first day and posting the pics online. I think I went through 250 photos that morning doing the same thing you’ve been doing. Good news is that it was not habit forming because they did not continue posting in coming days. Phew, thank you very much for helping me stop!

  8. Gigi at 6:35 am

    Refresh refresh refresh. Did it for 8 years. Didn’t have facial recognition apps until this year. Still check every picture for them.

  9. Natalie at 9:14 am

    This is so accurate! And based on your pics and descriptions, I’m fairly confident our girls go to the same camp. Good luck with pics this week! 🤣