The first day of camp is an emotionally driven day filled with bittersweet, mixed feelings. Excitement and anxiety are literally playing Tug-of-War in the stomach of almost every parent and camper.
The kids starting day camp, that’s a big step—but the kids leaving for overnight camp—that’s hard core. I imagine it’s very similar to sending a kid off to college, but with bathing suits and Mad Libs. I also imagine that I, too, would feel my breakfast on its way up if I had to put my kid on a bus, kiss her good-bye and hope for the best.
But I don’t, because I’m at camp. So, while the parents saying good-bye are all sad and crying, I’m jumping up and down waiting for the busses to pull up and the kids to come piling out.
Welcome to camp, yo!!!!
On one hand, I’m the last person any parent would want to listen to because how can I possibly understand what they’re going through? I’m still with my kids. I don’t have to let them go. I live at camp and when my girls are ready to go into cabins, I‘ll still be here. (Sorry, girls!!)
On the other hand, I’m a good person to speak on the subject because I know what’s happening on the camp end. I know that it’s totally and completely normal for kids to feel homesick. (It’s actually the ones who don’t miss home that I worry about.)
It’s OK to take a break from home. It’s healthy to change up scenery and lifestyle. It’s good to push yourself, try new things and meet new people. And, most importantly, it’s great for a kid to learn he can have fun and enjoy what he’s doing WHILE still loving and missing the people from home.
It just takes a minute or two to let go and give in.
I know it’s hard to walk by your little boy’s room and he’s not there. I know you miss your little girl’s smile and laugh. There’s a hole in your heart and a void in your home, I get that.
But they’re OK. The first few nights will be hard, for both of you, but in the end, it’s all going to be OK. Camp is a good thing. The fun, the action, the memories, the drama—it’s all good and it’s all camp.
And camp isn’t just good for your kids, it’s good for you too. You get to do your summer thing, whatever that may be.
My summer thing is at camp. My husband is a camp director at Camp Tanuga so when school is out I pack up my kids and my office and we move here for the summer.
And marrying into this life, I have learned a few things you might find beneficial:
1. If you are writing a letter to a new camper, try to refrain from letting him know what he’s missing at home. He’s at camp so the likelihood of you doing something more fun than what he’s doing is small, BUT just in case he’s feeling homesick, it’s best to leave any big plans out of your letters.
Ask some questions instead:
–How are your counselors? Do they make you brush your teeth? Did anyone short sheet your bed?
–What activities did you sign up for? Arts and Crafts? Yoga? High Ropes Course? Trapeze? Water skiing? Archery? Archery seems cool! Maybe you’ll be on Game of Thrones one day!
–Are you in a bottom bunk? Top bunk? Try not to fall out! (Don’t worry, he won’t fall out.)
–How’s the food? Do you get cake? I heard they have good onion rings there, watch out for Robyn, she will steal yours.
Stuff like that.
2. Leave out all the “I MISS YOU” stuff:
I miss you so much, Daddy misses you, the dog…NO. All of that NO. Tell him that you are all BORED TO DEATH and you wish you were at camp learning to ride a horse, chanting in the mess hall, or stuffing your face with grilled cheese and tomato soup.
3. Tell him what he’s doing is SO cool and you’re proud of him. Encourage and empower.
If you have a kid who has been to camp before, and you know he’s adjusted, you can also tell that kid how proud you are—but he probably won’t care. In fact, he might not even read your letter. The older kids are very busy during rest hour so there’s a good chance that no matter what you write you will get something like this in return:
Camp is all good things. It builds independence, self-reliance, tolerance and social skills. Everything about camp is great training for real life. You wouldn’t have sent your kid if it wasn’t.
You will get through it and so will he. And before you know it, he’ll be home…counting the days until he gets to come back.
Thanks for being here!