Summer Camp.

Monday, May 11, 2015

With summer camp just a month away, I'm already thinking about the packing list, care packages, and what I can do to ensure that my little one has a great time.  We've bought cute boots for riding horses, and I've started stashing away some fun care package goodies.  Mostly, though, I just have to trust and hope that the camp turns out to be the magical place this summer that it was last summer.

Last summer, I let my much-too-young kid talk me into sleep-away summer camp.  We'd been driving past a girls' camp since long before having kids and had talked years before about the possibility of sending a daughter there someday.  My daughter had seen the girls' camp on the way to her grandparents' house her entire life.  With a determined seven-year-old whose pleading and convincing finally wore me down, someday came much sooner than I anticipated.  So we scheduled a visit and checked it out.

We came away a little bit scared and a whole lot excited.  Next thing I knew, I'd registered my baby to spend a week away from home.

As camp approached, I became increasingly worried.  How would my little girl be able to sleep without her very elaborate and important bedtime routine?  Would she find something she'd be willing to eat, or would she just go hungry?  Would she be able to comb out her hair, or would she come home with dreadlocks?  

So I did all that I could do.  We made sure that she had every item on the packing list and then some.  We packed her favorite stuffed animals and some family pictures.  I put together fun care packages.  I made a shower guide to help her remember the steps.  And then she got an ear infection.  So off to camp she went with antibiotics and very strict instructions for nasal rinse three times per day.  She and the nurse would get to know each other well.

We dropped Big Sister off in a rush, bed unmade, with hardly a chance to say goodbye or take a picture.  Her counselor seemed quiet and reserved.  They had to put on bathing suits and sunscreen and head immediately to a swimming test (which we were unprepared for).  I can't say that I left camp any less worried even though my brave kid assured me that she'd be fine.

Soon photos started popping up on the camp website.  My kid looked happy.  She was smiling.  She looked like she was having fun.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Then there were photos of her tribe selection -- I knew instantly what that yellow chip meant.  She's a Wrangler!  Go Wranglers!

Each day there were new photos -- of her making a doll, drawing/painting, doing archery, and having fun with fellow campers.  She looked rested, cheerful, relaxed. 

 Her hair even looked well cared for.

I wrote her letters every day, from the kittens, telling her about what she was missing out on at home (not much).  We got one short postcard from her all week -- definitely a sign that she was doing fine at camp.

In the end, she had so much fun that she did not want to come home.  Being away from home was much, much harder on me than it was on her.  So the next time she went to camp, I went with her -- for a mother-daughter weekend.

We had so much fun playing in the river, doing log-rolling, kayaking, meeting the horses (and coloring them with chalk!), doing archery, making hair bows, eating good food, singing camp songs, making s'mores at the campfire, and performing in the talent show together.  She got to show me why she loves camp so much, and I got a tiny taste of camp life.  I totally got why she fell in love with the place.  I felt the magic.

So I'm excited for her to go back this summer, but I feel the worries creeping back.  What if the chaos of the bigger cabin with so many more girls is too much for her?  What if having some school friends there makes things more complicated?  What if this year's experience doesn't live up to last year's memory?  Only time will tell, I guess.  

For now, I'll just keep looking at these pictures and reminding myself of that camp magic.

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