A.I. Needs a Wet Hot American Summer
“Everything great came from summer camp,” is a quote in my Reboot-powered book Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life, that I’ve wistfully read dozens of times. I never went to Jewish summer camp. And it was only later in life — when I heard so many joyful stories from friends about the universally-known Jewish camp songs they learned and the awkward kisses with girls with curls and then witnessed 13-year-old Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids light candles for camp friends — that I realized what I had missed. So when HaShem and a woman who is 25 percent Jewish gave me a 62.5 percent Jewish son, I wanted him to have the Jewish camp experiences I didn’t. There was one problem: he didn’t really want to go. But with a hard sell about the joys of Jewish camp I never had myself and a swift kick in the butt to get him on the bus to Camp Tawonga, off he went.
But when your kid goes away to camp, there is pressure to write them letters. It’s a delicate tightrope. You want them to know you are thinking about them but you don’t want to make them homesick. Add in Jewish guilt and it’s a lot of pressure. So when it came time to write my latest letter to my son Lukas at camp, I turned to ChatGPT. The result was entertaining, although a bit rote. I think I’ll have to take back the job of Dad. And I’m disappointed that ChatGTP clearly hasn’t watched the movie, Wet Hot American Summer (from a Jew, by the way).
My dear and deeply missed Lukas,
I was pretty tired today so I asked ChatGPT to write you a letter on my behalf by answering this question: “Please write a 300-word letter from a dad to his 12-year-old boy who is at overnight Jewish camp, a camp he had mixed emotions going to.” Here it is:
How are you, champ? I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying your time at the Jewish overnight camp. I know it must have been tough for you to leave home and spend time away from your family and friends. As your dad, I want you to know that I understand the mixed emotions you had about going to camp, and I’m writing this letter to let you know just how proud I am of you.
Leaving familiar surroundings and stepping into the unknown can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity for growth and new experiences. You’re taking a brave step by attending this camp, and I believe it will be a rewarding and memorable journey for you.
Remember, it’s okay to feel a mix of emotions. You might feel excited one moment and a bit homesick the next, and that’s completely normal. Camp can be a rollercoaster of emotions, and it’s okay to ride that wave. Embrace the new friendships you make, the exciting activities you participate in, and the opportunity to learn more about your Jewish heritage.
While you’re away, I want you to know that we are here cheering you on. Your mom, siblings, and I eagerly await your return, and we can’t wait to hear all about your adventures. Camp is a place where you’ll make lasting memories, learn valuable life skills, and create bonds with fellow campers that might last a lifetime.
Take this time to grow, explore, and have fun. The experience you gain at camp will shape you into an even more amazing young man. Remember to be kind to others, be open to new experiences, and embrace the challenges that come your way.
You have our love and support, no matter where you are. So, make the most of this wonderful opportunity, learn as much as you can, and enjoy every moment. We’ll be thinking of you every day and eagerly waiting to see you back home.
Love and hugs,
P.S. RealDad™ here. As to better improve my letters-to-camp performance, please rate this camp letter on a scale of 1-10 with “1” being “Jesus, that was awful, and, by the way, what the hell is wrong with you, Dad?” and “10” being, “Wow, what an innovative and entertaining job you and ChatGPT did!”
P.P.S. You actually don’t have siblings. You know that, right?
Larry Smith is the founder and editor of The Six-Word Memoir Project, a bestselling series of ten books, including his favorite and probably yours, Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life. His most recent book, co-written with Melanie Abrams, is The Joy of Cannabis: 75 Ways to Amplify Your Life Through the Science & Magic of Cannabis.