When your kid comes home from camp, he’s going to be different. He’ll be taller, older and dirty(ish). He’ll be happy to see you, but missing camp. He’ll show his love by stomping around and mumbling things only he understands, or retreating to his room to find his camp friends on social media. There’s a chance he may pound on the table, chant something inaudible, and break into a random Mess Hall cheer. Swear words (some you’ve never even heard before) will be used all over the place, and there will be an unexplainable sense of loss in your home for a few days.
That’s because when it comes to how kids behave when they first return home after living at an overnight camp, some things are just universal.
Re-entry for girls is very much the same as boys. They also need space to mourn the end of a very intense living experience— they just handle it with more drama, and more whining. I have two girls, so I know all about THAT. Their time at camp is a little different than most kids because my husband and I are also here, but still, when they say their final good-byes to friends and counselors, they feel (and put us through) many of the same detox pains that everyone else is feeling.
I have learned a great deal over the last several years of watching and interacting with kids at an overnight camp, and I can tell you, without hesitation, that when your camper comes home with a dirty face, black feet and an inevitable cough—he will still be “cleaner” than he was when he left.
Your kid gained a lot at camp, but first he had to give up a lot:
1. No Mommy or Daddy. Boom. Right out of the gate, buh-bye, parents! Even my own kids aren’t allowed to come to our family cabin while they are campers. If I saw them around camp, great, but if not, maybe at dinner, yo! Parents aren’t present, but there are plenty of people in charge, and there are rules. Camp Rules. It doesn’t take long for the kids to get used to the rules though, because deep down they know they are the right rules for them at this point in their life. And if they don’t—they will one day.
2. No phones or electronics around camp or at meal time. Sorry, kids! You have to TALK to each other! HAHA! And you know what’s so crazy? They do talk. They talk a LOT. In fact, they don’t shut up, ever! If you were to walk into the Mess Hall at an overnight camp, you’d think you’d just stepped into the twilight zone: A huge group of people, so loud, all talking with each other. Chanting, cheering, singing. You’d think it was the biggest, craziest, most fun family dinner ever in history—and it is.
3. No “I” in Team. I rarely get to watch TV over the summer because I’m usually busy at camp, but on one of my trips home, I started watching a reality show portraying the Arizona Cardinals football team. I noticed their teamwork philosophy is very similar to what binds a cabin together, except kids don’t always operate as a team.
Sometimes campers are mean to other campers, but I have never met a camper (in my life) who WANTS to be mean. They are doing it for some other reason: attention, peer pressure, I don’t know. It’s interesting though. Once campers are solidly reminded that ripping on “teammates” is not how any legendary team wins, they usually understand the concept and they’re open to change. After that, it doesn’t take long for them to appreciate the “weird” characteristics in their cabin mates instead of shredding them.
4. No money. Campers have no money at camp. ZEE-RO. They don’t need it. All of their needs are being met: Food, water, shelter, friends and entertainment. They don’t need things while they are at camp. They are “thing” free, except for the things they bring. (And they always seem to know what to bring.) It’s amazing to see how much kids DON’T need when they are forced to rely on the things they already possess.
5. No one serves. No one is coming to your table to take your order, serve you food, or clear your plates at camp. Of course, counselors are available to help serve younger campers, but even those kids know that when they’re done, plates go in a certain spot, as do utensils and trays. If the kid is ready for camp, he’s ready to clean up after himself. It may not be like that at home, but it could be.
And when my kids get home, I will give them their obligatory mourning period, and I will let them sleeeeeep, tell private jokes, and miss their friends–and I won’t take things personally. Then I will do my best to remind them of all the amazing things they learned and gained and lived through at camp —especially when it’s time to clear and clean the table.
Thanks for being here!
The DS+D Crew
I enjoyed your post! I noticed that my daughter had a much more difficult time after camp then my son. She cried about missing Allie, her counselor, who she knew all of four days. She cried every night for a week because she missed Allie so much because she was the nicest person ever. After the second night it got pretty old, but she finally got over it. Reading your blog really helped make the decision to send them to sleepover camp. Even with all the drama of re-entry we’ll send them again next year, they just had so much fun 🙂
I don’t know why, but I’m always a little anxious when a new post goes out. It’s so dumb because the blog is for my girls so it’s how they react one day that will be most important, but I can’t EVEN tell you how nice it is to kick off comments with a positive one, especially from you. Thank you for being here, through all of the stuff we are going through. It’s nice for me to know I’m not alone either, and I couldn’t ask for someone more special than you to make me feel like that. I’m glad they had fun and I’m glad we were (in some way) a part of it. XOXOXOXO #camprules #sodoyou
Susan Bosse says
I showed this post to my daughter-in-law tonight & it was Rey helpful for her. My granddaughter is at camp for her 4th year, coming home Sunday. Like her Grammy, she is a born camper. Her birthday was yesterday so she was allowed to call home & she mentioned that she was sad to leave camp ( which is not the same thing as sad to come home!). My daughter-in-law, who is a fabulous mom but never went to camp, took some offense at that. Tonight I showed her your post…I am not sure she really “gets” it, but she did say she would give her space to mourn. Thanx for your wise words…no wonder your BFF loves you do much!
I love that you’re here, Susan! And you’re right, being sad to leave camp is not the same thing as being sad to come home. It’s just a very bittersweet transition. Also, it’s hard to understand or explain to someone who has never been to camp. Thank you for sending this on to your DIL. I bet she “gets” it a lot more now than she did! Thank you again for being here. My BFF loves you very much, and now I do too. XOXOXO
Susan Bosse says
Sorry for the typos above..Rey=very and do= so!
I knew what you meant, sistah!! XOXO