By: Janine Rosen
Excitement is surely building as the date for Visiting Day is around the corner, for the parents and our campers. After all, they can’t wait to see us and more importantly, we can’t wait to see them. This is our chance to see our kids in their summer home, meet their friends and ensure their counselors are making them brush their teeth! Just remember, Visiting Day may have some ups and downs and that is totally normal. For perspective (and a laugh) imagine that on my first VD nine years ago I was under my son’s bed (Danger Zone) looking for a missing shoe. The odor almost killed me. I held my nose and pushed through the wretched stench to find an uneaten turkey sandwich in his backpack from the bus ride to camp. It had been in there for four weeks!!!! So, here is some advice for the day:
- Before VD make a list on your phone of the questions you want to ask and things you want to discuss with your camper. It’s hard to imagine that you could forget the items you have been thinking about for a few weeks that you want to talk about, but you will. You get so caught up in the day, it’s inevitable to get in the car and realize you didn’t ask about the canoe trip, their favorite meal or the what was happening in the picture you saw week one.
- Be prepared for tears. No matter how much your child LOVES camp, seeing you is emotional. You are invading their space and their world and it is really not natural for them. Do not read into these tears. Take any tears throughout the day in stride and keep going, don’t let it be the focus. Most campers say camp is their “happy place” and it is…tears do not represent how they feel about camp.
- Keep the day positive. Sometimes campers feel the need to tell their parents all of the negative things that have happened as soon as they see them—they hate pizza and have had it three times, rain prevented their much-anticipated trip to a water park or they had to swim in the freezing pool. It’s easy to laugh now and have perspective on these things as your reading this, but when your camper is passionate about the injustice, you may feel the desire to delve into it with them—fight this urge. Ask them about what they like best, their favorite evening activity or a new skill they have learned at camp. Being at camp is a privilege and it’s important to learn how to deal with these bumps and focus on all of the good—for both of you!
- Let your camper guide the day. Some campers want to swim in the lake, show you their latest gymnastics routine or play 10 games of tetherball. Others want to just sit under a tree and tell you stories. Regardless of how you fill the day, the time together will feel special. I haven’t been to the lake in 8 years and always feel badly about it when I leave, but my kids have no interest…so I assume it hasn’t changed much since the first time I saw it!
- There are strict rules for saying good bye, follow them. By the time your kids are old (like mine) they basically want you to drop off the food off and leave, maybe stay an hour but then they are done with you. Sad, but true. When your campers are young, there may be a lot of build up to the good bye, again, this is natural and does not reflect how they feel about camp. Say good bye to your camper at their bunk, do not let them walk you to the parking lot!! Make sure they have a friend, a counselor or a camp big sister/brother at the bunk with them before you leave. Doing an activity like playing jacks or having a football catch is a good distraction. Once you say good bye, do not go back to the bunk for ANY reason. I don’t care if you left your sunglasses on your child’s bed—too bad—they can’t say good bye to you again. And finally, do not let your camper see you cry when saying good bye. That can’t be the image they are left with. Put your glasses on, smile big and tell them you love them, you are so proud of them and you loved meeting their friends and seeing their favorite activities.
Enjoy the day and the family time together. There may be some ups and down, funny turkey sandwich type stories (I have a long list of them but that’s for another time) and even a few tears. It’s all good…there really is no place better than camp.