Journal of a First-Time Camp Mom

June 26th came and with it the big send-off of first-session and full-summer campers. Ready or not, campers boarded buses, hit the road, and set off for camp. After weeks of packing, labeling, conversation and anticipation, all that was left then was silence. At Camp Specialists, we know that an empty house for the first time in years is not “nothing”. We decided to dedicate the blog to the first-time camp moms and dads, to share some stories and also give prospective families an inside look at what it’s like to actually send them away.

Jen’s story

My daughter (10 years old) was supposed to have her big first-time camp moment last summer, and then camp was cancelled. She was devastated but didn’t really know what she was missing. This year it was a sure thing to send her, but her little brother (8 years old) was a harder choice to make. He prevailed, his second sibling grit wearing us down, leaving me with equal parts optimism and concern. We’d always been together, what would this be like? Was he really ready? Packing for camp was a stressor – I thought I’d worked ahead but found it all took more time than I’d expected. Labelling dark clothes with no tags, last-minute rush purchases, more stamps!?! The day finally came and they both boarded buses to the same co-ed camp for seven weeks. In the days before they left, each one voiced their concerns to me – “I’ll miss you so much! What if I don’t make friends? I’m scared.” They were nervous still that morning but we all stood there in the parking lot just waiting for it to be done – like the waiting had been the hardest part and that would finally be over now. They drove off and we went home to a very quiet house.

Since then, I’ve gotten many letters from my daughter and a couple from my son, we’ve had one phone and one FaceTime call. I felt pretty heart sick for the first two days but my mood lifted significantly with the camp’s daily posts of pictures and details of their day. I guess that’s been the hardest part for me, the real disconnect of not being there, not being able to help, not knowing what’s going on, especially after a year of non-stop together time. But the information that I’m getting shows a staggering breadth of activities, smiling faces, and kids being kids together. They can’t learn independence sitting home with me, this was why we chose to send them in the first place. The FaceTime with my eight-year old showed an extremely self-assured kid, not missing home in the least, happy to chat about all of the many activities he is doing. My daughter is loving all of the rituals of camp, focusing on the gymnastics that weren’t allowed in the COVID year, and savoring this time where we are not following her around and she can feel more “grown-up”. I only have two more weeks “alone” and I can’t believe how fast it has gone. I’m planning more fun for me while I can fit it in, loving my clean house, and continuing to optimistically check the mail.

My kids came home last week and it’s been so great to have them back! They were all smiles and long hugs at the bus and we got to meet the water-ski instructor who they both befriended. The car ride home was long enough to hear about almost everything, including the singing of multiple Color War songs. Camp was their home for an entire summer and there was so much to tell – activities, new friends, no air-conditioning!, good food but the burgers weren’t like home, and so on. They had lived in a new place, learned its geography and customs, and become a part of a community. They both assume that they will go back to camp for as many years as they can – and why not?? They really had the time of their lives. Clearly we chose the right camp. I was delighted to find that they didn’t pick up any bad habits or different values over the summer, and that the transition to home went smoothly. They came back as exactly the same wonderful people as when they left. Of course, they are taller, and tanner, and full of amazing new memories. They are also full of an endless amount of laundry! I am trying my best to put it all away strategically, so that when it comes time to pack for next summer we are ready to roll.

Your Camp Specialists Team