By Tracey Cohen Paliath, Esq.
As the temperatures rise and the school year comes to an end, I find that I am as excited for the summer as my children are. To be honest, though as carefree and wonderful of a time that this is, I am a (little) worried. My ten year old daughter is going to overnight camp for the first time this summer, and while I am excited for her, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being nervous.
First, I’m nervous that she won’t like overnight camp simply because I didn’t like overnight camp. Of course, I realize that we are two different people with two different sets of experiences: I hated sleeping out at friends’ houses but went to overnight camp anyway; she loves to sleep out and would do it every weekend if she could. More importantly, I had a very fractured camp experience: I had to leave camp twice in four weeks: once for chicken pox, and once my braces broke. My daughter is going to camp for two weeks and has the chicken pox vaccine but no braces, so she is already two steps ahead of me. So I’ve kept my camp experience as closely guarded a secret as the surprise ingredient in my brisket (more on that in other blog) so she stays excited and optimistic about camp. But is putting a completely happy face on everything the right thing to do? Should I talk to her about homesickness in case she feels a little bit of it and knows it’s normal? I’m conflicted. And though I think she is going to a great camp that suits her, what will I do if I get letters (or e-mails) saying she hates it?
Did I mention that my kind-of shy daughter is going to be in a bunk with girls she doesn’t know? Although she knows some girls that are going to the same camp, they are going for longer sessions, so we know they won’t be bunked together. I see this as a good opportunity for her to branch out since almost all of her friends are from her school. But I also worry that she won’t fit in, or that by the time she’s developed friendships and gotten the routine down, camp will end before she truly savors the experience. Then I remind myself that the staff is trained to deal with this, and I trust them. So then I worry over the little things: what type of blanket will be just the right combination of soft but not too hot? How many sets of clothes does she need in her team’s colors for color war?
I guess what my worries come down to is that I want her to love camp. I want her to have camp friends at her bat mitzvah, to go back every year and show her younger sister the ropes. I want her to be a CIT and go to reunions, and spend the weekend in Rockville at her bunkmate’s house. I want her to have the experience I didn’t – I want better for my daughter than I had for myself. I talk to friends who loved camp and see their status updates on Facebook and realize what a special, carefree time in life she is in, and how special camp can be. It builds lifelong friendships and teaches independence and self-confidence – all the things I want my daughter to have in spades. And for just that reason, I realize that I can’t control it. I can pack all the right gear, and send cool stuff in care packages, but in the end, she’s the one who will decide if it was great, if it is something she wants to continue in the future. She will decide. And for maybe the first time in her life, a big decision is all hers and I won’t be there to “run interference.” And I think that’s what has me more nervous than anything.
By Tracey Cohen Paliath, Esq., JCS Director of Economic Services
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