By: Leigh Gourvitz
Memorial day marks the unofficial start of the summer season!! Since we are 35 days away from the start of camp, and in honor of Dave letterman’s retirement, I thought it would be helpful to put together a top ten list on how to prepare your first time camper for overnight camp.
1) Home Sickness. It can happen. Whether your child is a first time camper, or about to hop on that bus for their 6th summer, he or she may get homesick from time to time. My daughter’s first summer away was sending us one to two sentence letters telling us how she cries a lot because she misses us and how she really wants us to pick her up. I received several of these kind of letters. Don’t fret. I know it breaks your heart to receive such a letter, as it did mine – but have faith – they are going to love camp! First of all, it may only be in the moment – such as a rest period or at night time, when they have time to think about family and how much they miss home. But as soon as they get out of that bunk and start running around and doing activities and making lifetime friends, they soon forget they were even homesick. When they are too busy having fun is when they are not writing home so much. By mid- summer, I actually got a letter from my formerly homesick daughter thanking us (yes thanking us!) for sending her to camp!
2) When buying camp items, try to space it out – so it is not one big charge at once. When I made my daughter’s camp appointment at a local camp store, I had no idea what was ahead of me. They had all these cool items that the Camp “Expert” showed to my daughter. Of course she is going to want everything that was shown to her. From the trunks and bedding to “boyfriend” pillow and shower shoes – we ordered a lot. $1400 later (gulp) I was about to have a heart attack! I had no idea the items were going to add up so high. When it is my younger daughter’s turn next year, I will make sure to buy the trunk one month. Then another month buy the bedding and so on. That way, it will not feel like we are getting hit with a big total at once.
3) Send a letter to your camper, prior to camp so it is waiting for them on their first day. Inside that letter, send a fill in the blank questionnaire type letter asking your camper all the things you are dying to know. And instruct them to complete and send back next day. For instance –
a. My counselors’ names are______________________________
b. There are ___ number of kids in my bunk. Their names are______________________
c. I sleep next to_______________________________________
d. For dinner I had _________________________
e. Camp so far is __________________________________________________
f. What I liked best so far is ____________________________________________
I actually did not do this for my daughter, but my good friend did, and I thought it was a brilliant idea. I ended up doing it after camp started, as my daughter was not answering any of my questions about camp. Finally – I was getting the information I craved!
4) Do you want everything to come back from camp? Well keep dreaming, as you have better odds walking on water. However, your odds are better of you label everything! I personally go to Denny’s just because they will hand sew the name labels in all clothes purchased there. One less thing I have to worry about. For all other items going to camp – you must label them as well! I personally wait for the email that informs me that Label Daddy is offering a discount. They happen to be offering a 20% discount now until May 31, 2015. Use code SUMMER365. The laundry markers and name stamps are another option. You can even get a silver sharpie to label dark clothing/items. Whatever your preferred method, just make sure you label, label, label!
5) LICE check BEFORE going on that bus. Most camps are checking heads that first day of camp to prevent an epidemic. If they find those little buggers, cleaning your child’s head is NOT included in the camp tuition! Camp may charge up to $500 to have the heads cleaned – like you want to have pay any more money than you already shoveled out. Plus, your child may not be able to spend the first night of camp with their bunk. How heart breaking! Do your kid a favor – get his or her head professionally checked at once of those Lice centers before camp begin. It is worth it!
6) If you plan on staying over Visiting Day weekend, and you did not make a hotel reservation – stop whatever you are doing right now and do it! …..
7) After the bus drives away, by the next morning you may officially become a Camp Minder stalker. Camp Minder is one of the websites that camps use to post their pictures. I know – we wait for that very second when the pics are posted. Then we start to analyze the pics – why isn’t she smiling? Is it that terrible? Why isn’t she in any pictures? Is she sitting somewhere not enjoying herself instead of wanting to be on camera? Why? Why? Why? This is perfectly normal. You may be a completely rationale person in real life, but when you have no contact with your child for seven weeks, and all you really have are pictures to go by, your irrationality gets the best of you and you let your mind wonder to the worst. I know this is easier said than done – but don’t worry. They are OK. They are more than OK – they are embarking on the best summer of their lives. If they are not in many pictures, that is probably because they are having so much fun in the activity they are doing and they don’t want to stop for a picture. Or if they are not smiling in the picture, they are most likely perturbed that they had to stop what they were doing to take the dumb picture! These are truths!
8) Have you heard about Postagram? It is this really cool app that allows you to turn pictures into postcards! My daughter loved to receive pictures of the family made into a postcard. You can also take camp pictures from Camp Minder and turn them into a Postagram. Send them up with fun tac so they can hang the Postagrams up and decorate their sleeping area with fun pictures!
9) Pictures – make an album for them before they go away so when they are homesick, they can look at their family and friends. Or sometimes the kids talk about their family and friends from home to their new camp friends, and they like to show them who everyone is – put a face to the name.
10) Practice saying goodbye. This is a tip we get from our camp director. He insists we should be doing it now. I have to tell you, we did NOT do this last summer, and the person who should have been practicing this was my husband! He may have been wearing sunglasses that morning, but when the bus drove away, he could not hide those tears. Then he just kept saying, “I cannot believe you sent my 8 year-old daughter away for 7 weeks!” Although he knew she was going to love it and it was a great opportunity for her, he couldn’t believe she was gone. Perhaps if he practiced saying goodbye, it wouldn’t have hit him like a bulldozer. Oh – who am I kidding? He probably would have had the same reaction, but still is healthy to try practicing the goodbyes! At least for your child’s sake!