Below is a post I had the opportunity to write for Treasured Girlz!
My twin brothers are 7 years older than me so they were always a phase or more ahead. I remember all the summers that I sat in the back seat of the station wagon while we dropped them off at overnight camp and I was not old enough to go myself. The time finally came when it was my turn, it was the summer after 1st grade and I was 7. I was super excited about it! Excited…until my friend gave me a hard time about going, made fun of it actually, and my entire attitude changed. My parents had already paid, we’d bought a trunk, got a caboodle (remember those? well, they’re back!) and labeled all the stuff. So I was going…(it was the 80s, once the check was signed & mailed that was it).
As we headed up the mountain towards Mentone, Alabama the butterflies in my belly soared. Then, when my parents drove away and I stood next to my new counselors and cabinmates there was definitely a lot of fear and uncertainty. I finally got what I had always wanted…here we go!!
From swimming in the river, riding a horse for the first time & overcoming the ropes course to making new friends, singing around the campfire and picking up a deep southern drawl, (which would become a trend in my life during my time in Alabama and later living in Mississippi) that experience at overnight camp made an impact on me. I’ll admit that even with all the fun new adventures and experiences, I was still homesick. My sweet mom wrote me a letter every single day (which I did not read in fear it would make me sad and I did not want to be sad at camp) and I think I received at least two care packages. I wish I had a picture of those care packages wrapped in brown grocery bags covered in drawings and messages from my mom that brought that comfortable feeling of home and lots of fun goodies.
I left camp that year with a notebook full of addresses, because every young girl in the 80s needed pen pals, several rolls of film to be developed, confidence knowing I could survive in a new place away from home and a heart full from new relationships and memories made. Oh, and that deep southern drawl that caught my parents completely off guard and that we still laugh about today. Let me help you understand that more fully, my parents are from the northeast and transferred to Georgia in the late 70s for my dad’s job so deep southern roots or accents we did not have, but you would not have known that at Friday pick up!! 😉
I returned to Mentone, AL every summer for camp until high school. I can still remember the names and faces of my counselors and many of the girls I met. The summers there shaped me, they really did. At the time, it was just a fun two weeks I got to experience at the beginning of June each year and see my Alabama and Louisiana friends. But looking back as an adult I realize that time in my life and experience at camp gave me my independent spirit, my confidence to try new things, ability to push through fear and do the hard stuff, build relationships on my own and let’s be honest, master any accent I fancy!!
As a mom of two girls, I always wanted them to go to overnight camp. It’s something that James and I talked about when they were little. He never went to camp so I made sure he heard all my stories and of course my brother’s stories as well so he could fully grasp our passion for it. But let’s face it, overnight summer camp can be pricey and when I looked into sending our girls to my camp, I had sticker shock. I had just quit my corporate job and that was just not in our budget. I searched online and talked to friends to find options that made sense for our family. And there are tons!! I didn’t need my girls to go to my camp, I just wanted them to get to experience everything summer camp had to offer and hopefully be impacted by it like I was.
Ella and Hannah headed off to their first experience at overnight camp after 2nd & 1st grades, similar to me. Now in the role of mom, I was full of excitement yet also had some nerves. Were they ready, were they too young and let’s be honest, was I ready for them to be taken care of by someone other than family for an entire week??? But I quickly put those nerves behind me and started sharing with them how much fun they were going to have and some of my own personal stories.
At drop off that first year, I could feel the tears trying to come up but I did my very best to hold them in because I didn’t want my emotional outburst to freak them out and them not want to separate from us. Man, did I have it all wrong…We got Ella settled in her group first and I could no longer hold back the tears, I was about to leave my babies!! My attempt at hiding the river flowing from my eyes from Ella failed. She looked at me and said, “Mom, stop crying!” with complete disgust and likely embarrassment. I pulled myself together enough to move on to say goodbye to Hannah, again the tears welled up but I did not care, I no longer was trying to hide it from them, I think now I needed a little love. Gosh, are they even going to miss me, I started thinking to myself. Nope, without even looking up from her newly started art masterpiece Hannah waved and said, “Toodles mom!”. She could’ve cared less!
I remember getting in the car with James, taking a deep breath, letting out a few more tears, talking about how much fun they were going to have yet feeling a noticeable absence. Of course, I immediately went to post pics on Facebook of camp drop off and probably feeling the need for a little support and validation I wrote briefly about how our goodbyes went and said, “I’m either doing something right or something wrong!”
I think by nature my girls are independent spirits. I’m not a parenting expert, just a mom, so I can’t tell you whether our parenting has anything to do with that or it’s merely the way they are wired. But what I can tell you is I think that because we laid a foundation of excitement, support and a belief in them that they were going to thrive in this new environment and in this new experience they were ready and comfortable.
After feeling sad and sorry for myself that my girls didn’t miss me, I realized I’m doing something right…The goal is to raise them up and prepare them to leave the nest. Yeah, at early elementary I wasn’t quite ready and neither were they but at each age and phase we are building their foundation. It doesn’t have to be overnight camp or even day camp, but as moms we are called to give them experiences that will allow them to grow and find their way. That looks different for each family and each girl. It could be sports, art, drama, STEAM club, church group, anything that fits who they are. Push them out of their comfort zone every now and then and you’ll be surprised at how high they will fly!!