Taking the Sleep Out of Sleepaway Camp…by Liimu

My two oldest daughters are at sleepaway camp for the first time. I knew this was going to be stressful, but I didn’t realize that I was going to be the one stressing out.

The first night, we were prepared for a phone call. The counselors told us we should expect a call between 8 and 9, but we shouldn’t worry if we didn’t get one. It just meant they were adjusting and happy and didn’t feel like they needed to check in. So, when we hadn’t received a call by 9:30, I figured we’d gotten lucky. The next morning, I woke up and realized immediately that there was a new message on our voicemail and I knew exactly who it was from. My husband has this irritating habit of letting all our cars go to voicemail, but even he realized that this was a mistake on the girls’ first night at camp. Sure enough, the message was a teary plea for us to come get them. They were miserable and wanted to come home.

When we called later that morning, the counselors assured us that the girls had been doing fine until it was time to get ready for bed. They had a wonderful morning and were in much better spirits.  We said we’d wait to see how they were doing before deciding whether we would get them earlier than we’d planned. When they called us Monday night, they were still in tears, desperate to come home, claiming to be more homesick than ever before. I made plans to pick them both up a day early, but urged them to stick it out at least one more day.

I remembered my one week of sleepaway camp – girl scout camp – where I had one friend, a 23-year old anorexic counselor named Mona, who’s most redeeming quality was the fact that she had 24-hour access to the phone I needed so I could call home to beg to be picked up, which I did…at least ten times a day. (My poor mom.)

Don’t get me wrong – I understand the value of taking a firm stance and “being the parent,” to quote the camp director. (Like any stance I might take would suddenly make me not the parent?) At the same time, my kids are…complicated, at times. I also don’t want to force them to stay longer than they are comfortable and eliminate the possibility they might ever try another sleepaway camp. At the same time, I want to urge them to push beyond their comfort zone to see what they’re capable of achieving. I do that myself and I certainly see the value in encouraging them to do the same when it’s appropriate.

Case in point: Tuesday night. The girls called…well, my 9-year old called. The 8-year old chose to forego her opportunity to talk to us in favor of continuing with her camp activities. The 9-year old was her usual, chipper self and was focused on wrangling to see if she could catch a ride with my sister up to the Vineyard on Friday, rather than coming with us a day earlier, so she could stay at camp as long as possible. What a difference a day makes. Tonight, they haven’t even called. Problem is, the director needs to know whether the girls are staying until Thursday or Friday and I haven’t yet heard from them.

Ah, the joys of parenting. I’m navigating it carefully but honestly, I am figuring it out as I go along. Thankfully, I get the impression that’s what we’re all doing, to a certain extent. Pray for me.

Tags: , ,