Friday, July 11, 2014

Hello Muddah

An old summer camp friend of mine has a friend whose (12-year-old) kid is going to camp for the first time and was looking for advice, both for mom and kid.

I suspect I was asked because I was online at the time she had the question. And because I have worked at or attended about a dozen camps, as camper, counselor, division head, drama specialist, dorm parent, costume designer (OK, that was a theater camp), maintenance person, kitchen crew, arts-and-crafts director (very briefly and in a pinch), office administrator, and director. So I know pretty much everything.

But so do a bunch of you.

Here is some of what I said.

For mom:

  • Even if you feel sad or worried about your kid, DO NOT emphasize that. Tell her you'll miss her, but not how much, and then let her go have fun — if she's homesick, let it be on her own terms and not because she's worried about you. 
  • Don't  hang around a long time after you drop her off. Get there early so she can get a good bunk, help her settle in quickly and then leave.
  • Write. Letters from home are some of the best parts of camp. Do it even if your kid is terrible about writing back. Do it on paper, not email, even if camp lets you email.
  • Have fun while she's gone. If she is an only child (or her siblings are also at camp), have grownup fun that it's harder to have without her around, and tell her about the appropriate-to-share but boring-to-her parts, in your letters. ("Edith and I went to the teacup museum and saw seven hundred different kinds of teacups. It was so fascinating.") If not, obviously you will have special fun with your other kids, but encourage them not to brag about it until she's home and can brag back.

For kid:

  • Make friends with as many interesting fun kids as you can and also at least one kid who doesn't seem to have very many other friends. 
  • Try as many things as seem fun to you, even the ones you're afraid you won't be good at. 
  • Eat as many fruits and veggies as you can, even if they're gross, and at least a little protein at every meal. That will help avoid whatever sickness winds up going around. 
  • Write to your parents, at least once every week but no more than once a day.
  • Come armed with a couple of legitimately funny jokes, and then don't tell them right when you get to camp. There will be a moment when you will be glad you have them. 
  • Bring one nice outfit (not fancy, just, like, clean and makes you feel good) and save it (maybe in one of those big plastic Ziploc bags) for towards the end of camp, when everything else is kind of dirty and cruddy and gray and gross. YOU WILL FEEL SO AMAZING.
So, my many, many other camp-expert friends, including the ones I know from summer camp: What do you say? What's the best advice you've gotten? What's the smartest thing you've seen done?

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