Well, it’s only been 3 days since I put my son on the bus for his first summer at camp but it feels like an eternity! With my other two off to day camp I finally had a chance to sit down and reflect on the past week and a half.
If you don’t already know me I’ll quickly say for background that I am a camper through and through, live(d) for camp and my best friends to this day are my camp friends, our bunk (and yes we still call each other “the bunk”) talks on a daily basis, all of us.
So all of that is to say, I thought this process, the process of sending your child off to camp for the first time, would be a little easier for me because I had been through it. I kept thinking how much harder it would be for my husband and others that weren’t lucky enough to experience sleepaway camp themselves. But what I learned the hard way is that all of that didn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter that I lived/still live for camp, NOTHING can prepare you for sending your baby off to camp that first time, and even years to follow.
I was very calm, to say the least; I locked myself in the bathroom to make sure my son couldn’t hear me cry and would secretly take pictures of him sleeping just before he left. Calm, right? My son wanted a few days of nothing, just rest time before he left…in theory, this sounded great, in reality, this meant more time for us to just sit and anxiously await the inevitable. I wish I made more plans in those days leading up, as much as I loved the alone time with him, I think it would have been better for both of us if we were busier.
Seeing your child nervous and anxious (even though I knew it was coming), is still heartbreaking. I started second guessing myself…I didn’t want to pressure him to do something he didn’t want to do – just because I loved it. But each time I questioned myself, my husband would talk some sense into me and remind me of how NORMAL it is to be nervous. My son was never saying he didn’t want to go, rather just that he was anxious to go. Quite frankly you should be, it’s a total unknown! As much as I loved camp, every summer I got the nervous jitters, considering every summer was going to be different in some way.
I also kept reminding myself that it’s healthy for our kids to be anxious and nervous sometimes and to be pushed out of their comfort zone, from this they learn.
The bus stop was a totally surreal experience, something I have thought about and literally dreamt about for years. It was exciting, it was emotional and the second that bus pulled away the tears were streaming.
They continued on and off all morning. But then something amazing happened…we got the email that the bus arrived safely at camp and I got this overwhelming feeling of pure excitement. He made it, he was there, and now he would start to finally learn firsthand all the magic that is summer camp. I surprised myself that this switch happened so quickly, but was also grateful that it did.
Since I have 2 other little ones at home, I was very conscious of their reaction to their big bro leaving and having all of the attention turned to them (quite honestly they were neglected a bit the week leading up). My middle guy has been begging for a sleepover for ages, I smartly planned his first ever sleepover for that night the bus left…that way he had an exciting new experience to focus on and didn’t have to come home to his half empty room that he shares with his big bro. I am patting myself on the back for this move, it was a huge success. Everyone is settling into a “normal” routine but with one gone, I am doubting that it will ever really feel normal without him here. But fun we shall have. I am of course excitedly awaiting every picture of my son. To see him participating, smiling, his arms around other kids, it makes for a very happy heart and a very deep sigh! Here’s to us all learning from those nervous jitters…now bring on that first letter! :)
By: Hallie Grodin