Posted May 27, 2019
The kids are leaving for sleepover camp. Now what? I know it creates such a range of emotions. During our son’s first summer away at camp, I remember being a nervous wreck until I got his first letter! The second year, when both my kids went, I remember feeling like it was my first day of college. I had not felt such freedom probably since that moment. My husband, Brian, and I were like teenagers! We spent the weekend they left with our friends in New York City and enjoyed every moment going to great meals and shows, but this was masking the nervousness we both felt at the same time about how our kids were doing. My daughter was 8 years old and was only planning to go for one month, but after one week, the camp called us to say she wanted to stay seven weeks! We knew then we could breathe!
Now that my kids are veteran campers, when they leave, I am not one bit worried, just 100% excited for them. I miss them for sure, but I know the time flies, and I appreciate all the advantages of my free time knowing my kids are having the best moments of their entire lives (I know that from my own experiences as a camper). They need this time to get away from the daily grind and electronics and really be with their friends and nature (even more than we did growing up).
So here are some tips:
For those of you who are new to this, you have to watch this somewhat inappropriate video which you will soon relate to all too well:
The gist is that your camp is most likely going to be posting pictures every day and you are going to be wanting to watch NON STOP. You are going to obsess over finding pictures of your kids and over-analyze everything in these pictures. You are going to jump to crazy conclusions. You are going to drive yourself INSANE. Be warned now!
I have one friend who pays her children a quarter a photo they can get themselves in so that they are incentivized to be in as many pictures as possible so she can see them. I have another friend who has some special sign language with her kids so she can learn from them how they are doing based on how many fingers he puts up in the photos.
One super cute idea that my friend Andrea came up with is to print out all the best pictures posted by the camp during the summer and decorate the house with them so they can see them when they come home. My kids loved this! They did not let me take them down all year. They’re still up! They spend so much time in that room just looking at the pictures.
Every camp is different with what they allow you to bring your campers on visiting day. I have heard these crazy stories about people bringing elaborate gifts and food. Our camp is very casual. No gifts or food are allowed. I actually really love this. I think the experience should be about being together again (though we do sneak them in a few of their favorite small treats).
Make sure you write down all the questions you want to ask them because you are going to be overwhelmed by all the emotions of seeing them and you don't want to forget things that have been on your mind and you need to know. If you really want to do something special, bring something matching for everyone in your kid’s bunk. You can easily go to the $1 store and find something that will be fun! For example, we previously got everyone in my son’s group umbrella hats that seemed to be the craze one summer.
Cleaning Up Their Home Spaces
This is your chance to really clean up your kids’ stuff without them messing it up again! Last year, I took the opportunity to discard my daughter’s slime collection and station. I can't tell you how much this area grossed my husband and me out. I knew that this was my one chance to get rid of it all because, after being away for 7 weeks, she surely was not going to remember what was there when she returned. And hopefully I would stop the annoying trend in our home. It worked for about 6 months, but after being stuck inside for a few snow days, she jumped back into the trend, so I will be doing this again this summer. Shhhh…
My kids have never been great with letter writing. It’s a big frustration. But I keep telling myself that it shows they are just having fun and have nothing to write and complain about. I think the key is to find something they want to know about from home so they are encouraged to keep writing to get a response. For example, my son loves sports and wants to know all the scores of the games so my husband will send them once we hear from him. My daughter wants to know what is going on in her favorite television show. If they want to know, they need to write and keep us posted on how they are doing, so we can give them the answers.
Also, most camps have a way to communicate with your kids by email. We love this as it’s so quick and easy to send them a note, and then you can ask for them to write a response on the back, which saves them the trouble of writing and mailing a letter. We’ve gotten a lot more communications this way and Brian and I just take turns during the week sending them emails.
I think it is important to be an advocate for your child, but I also really think camp is a great chance for your kids to solve their own problems. This is your child's chance to learn to be more responsible. So get out of the way and let them to do that! If they can't find their water bottle, they need to go talk to their counselor or go to the lost and found and find it. Or, god forbid, write us a letter and ask for another one.
Have Fun with your Spouse!
Please make sure you don't wait until just a few days before the kids come home to relax and appreciate this time. Start taking advantage of the time to have fun right from the start because the time will fly! Be with your spouse and enjoy the alone time together. Plan trips – either long or short getaways. Go out to dinner. See friends you haven’t seen. Exercise together. This is going to be what life is like in 10 years so you better make sure you enjoy it.
I have seen many couples find this time to be the absolute best time for their marriage and others realize they want the hell out (or can’t wait for their kids to come home) after being stuck alone with their spouse all summer. You should honestly feel like you’re 20 again, no constant cooking, cleaning (It will freak you out that nothing in the house moves during the summer!), waking up early with kids, and the list goes on and on. Enjoy your freedom until they are home, which they will be before you know it!
Jamie Ratner is the Founder & CEO of CertifiKID and proud camp mom to Lila and Noah.
CertifiKID was founded by a mom with a passion for helping parents provide the best experiences for their children on a budget. From outings to adventures, classes to camps, theater to sporting events, amusement parks to getaways, CertifiKID provides the best family-friendly experiences at unbeatable prices. Sign up for family-friendly deals in your area and start saving!