The mail arrives and you see that adorable camp stationery with your printed sticky address label placed in the wrong spot. You smile. Your heart gets all giddy and excited to hear from your child who has been at sleep away camp for less than a week. You carefully open the envelope, knowing this piece of memorabilia will be saved in the many scrapbooks you have piled in your storage closet.
You pull out the letter, anxiously wanting to hear all about the fun and exciting activities your child is doing. You read:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I hate camp. Why did you send me here? This is the worst place on earth and I want to come home. The food sucks and my bunkmates leave their clothes on my bed. I am not staying here! Bring me home!
Love you so much,
Insert Child’s Name Here
Mike Tyson may as well have just punched you in the stomach. “What?” you say to yourself, “what have I done?”
You rush to call your spouse and share this terrible news. The two of you commiserate on how you are bad parents, how it was a mistake to send your child off to camp all those miles away. You immediately call the Camp Director to find out what the heck is going on.
To your complete and utter surprise, the Director tells you that your child is happy. They are making tons of friends. They are having tons of fun. The Director has not seen or heard anything that would tell them otherwise.
So what do you do with these “I hate camp” letters? First, you take a deep breath. I speak from experience on both sides of these “I hate camp” letters. I have written them. I have received them. I know how these things go.
Your child has to write home. Many times they are supposed to hand in a letter to get into the dining hall for dinner (this is the way the camp gets the kids to write home; trust me they are not trying to starve your child).
This letter writing usually occurs at rest hour. It is a quiet bunk time when the day slows down and the kids are supposed to rest. Your child gets a chance to take a break, wind down, and they begin to think. When they begin to think, they start to feel those homesick pangs; anything they may feel even the slightest bit icky about will make them tell you they hate camp.
This is a moment; a blip in their day that passes as quickly as it came. Then they place their lovely letter in the camp mailbox and they go off on their merry way to play and laugh and have fun.
Four to five days later (yes camp mail can take that long!) you receive this lovely letter and you think your child is being tortured. Now your summer is ruined because you are left harboring this pain and agony for the rest of the time your child is at camp. Meanwhile, they will have moved on and will most likely have no recollection of what they wrote about thirty seconds later.
So to all you parents out there, who go up in arms when you receive an unexpected bad letter from your child, please stop fretting. Enjoy your summer, stress-free. I promise you, you will discover how their summers really went when you see their smiling faces in August.
If you receive one of these lovely letters, I do recommend that you call the camp just to make sure that there is nothing going on. Which, and I assure you, ninety-nine percent of the time there is not.
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