Not that you asked, but here’s my advice: if there’s a question about whether to send your child to overnight camp, I say, “Yes. Have your child go to overnight camp.” And for a minute, I’m not saying this for your child (I don’t know your child). I’m saying this for YOU.
Here’s why: beyond all those good coping skills and peer experiences your kid will have at camp (and let’s face it, probably your child will have a blast), you get a lot out of the deal. You are dubious. Hang with me, here.
You get to miss your child. Sure, this is tender and a little sad, even melancholy, but it’s also the sweet kind of tender. You remember what you like about that kid of yours in little unexpected bursts. You almost buy the favorite flavor of yogurt—and then, for a week or two, you don’t. There’s something about pining for someone that parents in the 24/7 grind of life don’t experience with their children. It’s really, really nice to be reminded just how much you adore your child, through the absence that does make the heart grow fonder.
You get, I hope, mail. Depending upon your child, age, fluency with writing, this can be informative or not informative, but no matter what, it’s fun to get a letter and to see what your child does or does not reveal via post. I am not sure all camps require letters. Ours does, one a week. And there aren’t electronic communications, like postings of photos or emails or texts between parents and children or really even camp and parents. There aren’t phone calls. Thus, the mail—so old school—becomes authentically significant again. There’s really nothing like an envelope through the chute when that is all the communication you’re going to enjoy for a period of time.
You will, I hope, send mail. You know what? If you let it be fun, it’s fun to send postcards and letters with a little comic from the paper and or a Mad Lib or crossword enclosed or what have you off to camp. Most camps don’t allow food (mice, jealousy, food allergies, sugar highs). This means you have to be inventive and send a tiny flashlight or a deck of cards or yoyo strings if you want to add to your missives. I find it interesting, at least this is the case for me, to realize how little I have to say; you might realize how little you have to say—or you might be surprised by just how much you have to say (and then, please let me know so I can follow your lead and write juicier letters, quality over quantity for a change). It’s delightful to wonder aloud on paper about what’s happening where your child is. It’s kind of nice to communicate in such a different way. Personally, I’m reminded that I enjoy drawing hearts.
To that last notion of wondering aloud what’s happening where your child is—I think it’s really nice not to know everything when on some level, in day-to-day life with familiar haunts and kids and even teachers or destinations, there’s just so much you don’t know about the rhythm and feel of your camper’s day. This is why I favor the no photos posted by camp decision. I like so much that camp is for the campers not for parent voyeurs. And I say this as one who will pick up at camp, and take photos and post them and email them to the grandparents. Put another way, what happens in camp stays in camp. This is good for your child. I think, in our helicopter-leaning era, it’s even better for us. The tethers we keep so tight do have to get longer and looser in order for our children to grow up and out. And we have to loosen our grips in order for this to happen. To hear your child tell you of some adventures and misadventures later on is to realize your child’s resourcefulness and to realize that your gift to them as a parent has just as much to do with letting go, as with holding tight.
You may not miss your child—at least not the entire time. It might be nice to have a break. And that’s awesome, too.