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My Kid Is Going To Sleepaway Camp For The First Time. Help!

You’ve survived the ordering, the shopping, the labelling, the packing, and finally the camp trunks are en route. But this last activity is often the most challenging: bringing your child to the pick-up bus for sleep-away camp.

Our bus pick-up was always in the parking lot at Bloomingdales, enabling me to quickly indulge in some retail therapy to quell my sadness. The first time  it was just my daughter who would go, but then her little brother announced he wanted to join her the following year.

That first year that I put both my kids on that camp bus was one of the toughest things I’d ever done. I tried to hide my tears, but the more-experienced moms next to me knew exactly what I was feeling.

Letting go is hard. Our Worry Monsters tends to rear their heads whenever our children leave us, especially if it’s for 7 weeks of camp. What if my daughter is homesick? What if my son’s too hot? What if they get hurt? What if they don’t like their counselors? What if… what if … what if?!?!

This is a natural place for our mind to go when we relinquish control of our children. But, relinquishing is a good thing. Time away from your kids – and time for them to be away from you – is full of growth opportunities, for everyone!

The benefits of camp are numerous. Kids learn to be responsible for chores. Do you remember Kaper Chart Wheels, where campers were matched up with small jobs? Sweeping the bunk. Bringing in the towels. These activities are part of communal living. They help kids learn to get along and share in the upkeep of the group. (And somehow camp makes that fun!)  Your children also have the opportunity to make their own decisions. If your son doesn’t wear a sweatshirt in the morning, yes, he might be cold. But he’ll either run back to his bunk to get it or figure it out for the next day. When children get to make choices without your influence, it builds self-confidence.

But even if you’re on board in your head, the drop-off still tugs at your heart. As the bus pulled off with my “babies” that long-ago day, I looked after it, dreading going back to a quiet house. Then a wise mom came over to me and gave me some of the best advice I ever received:

“Don’t waste a moment being sad because this time will pass all too quickly,” she said. “Enjoy your respite from mom-responsibilities and go have fun with your husband and friends.”

She was right! No babysitters. No play-dates. No carpools. No sleepovers. Fewer errands. More wine! It was exactly the type of re-charge I needed, and I didn’t even know it at the time. My husband and I felt like we were dating again. We had tons of fun. And so did our kids!

So, wave goodbye with a smile. You’re providing everyone in the family a wonderful summer experience.



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