I am the proud mother of a Rockbrook camper. This is my daughter’s second year at Rockbrook. For her first year, we decided to sign her up for the mini-session to see if summer camp was something she was going to enjoy. When we picked her up last summer, she let us know without hesitation that she was ready to go back for the full session, which is almost 3 weeks long. As I write this and reflect on what summer camp means to me as a parent, she is back at Rockbrook enjoying all that camp has to offer.
The moments leading up to camp drop-off are always emotional. This year, as we waited in the car line, I watched my daughter go back and forth between happiness and excitement (after all, she had been waiting for this all year!) to being nervous and anxious. She recognized the lake she had so much fun in last summer but then realized this meant we were getting closer to the drop-off point. After we unloaded her trunk and she realized it was time for us to say goodbye, she started to cry, just as she did the previous year. This year, however, she was not the only one; I also had some tears as we drove away from camp.
Sending your child off to sleepaway camp is not easy. Aside from the obvious fact of how much I would miss her, there were lots of other things I worried about. Would she do a thorough job of brushing her teeth? Would she remember to put on sunscreen? Would she eat any vegetables over the next couple of weeks? More importantly, would she be able to fall asleep without the goodnight hugs and kisses from Mom and Dad that she was used to? Would she miss the nightly ritual of being tucked into her own bed? What would happen if she got homesick or felt left out?
In the end, I know she will be fine. At Rockbrook, she is surrounded by an incredible staff trained to handle all types of situations and wonderful, caring counselors (many who were Rockbrook campers themselves!) who have secret tricks up their sleeves to help homesick campers. Not to mention, she is in a cabin full of friends who are also probably feeling a little sad about missing home. And, as she settles into camp life and I start to see photos of her smiling with her friends, I know I will be okay too.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that camp has so many benefits for children: the opportunity to try new activities, developing confidence and self-esteem, learning social skills, and building lifelong friendships. What you may not know is that camp can also benefit the parents. By sending my child to camp, I’ve learned that being a parent is more than handling the day-to-day stuff. Sometimes, it means stepping back and letting your child find their own way. At Rockbrook, my daughter gets to decide what activities she wants to sign up for, what food to put on her plate, and how to spend her free time. That is a great thing. If she gets homesick or has a bad day, she has to figure out how to deal with those feelings without me. And while the time apart is difficult, I know that when we are reunited, I will have so much respect and appreciation for my daughter for the amazing, brave, resilient, independent person she is. (I will also appreciate the steady stream of camp songs that usually follow in the days after camp!)
Earlier today, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. Coincidentally, this episode was all about summer camp. The host of the podcast, Ira Glass, talks about how there is a divide between “camp people” and “non-camp people.” Those that never went to summer camp can never fully understand the camp experience. He interviews a former camper-turned-counselor who says that all of the best moments of his life have either been at camp or with camp people. What a bold statement. He continues on to say that he would not be who he is if it wasn’t for camp. As a non-camp person, I may never understand what this means. But my daughter (and your daughters) will, and hopefully the experiences they have at Rockbrook will also become some of the “best moments” of their lives.