Sleepaway Camp? Really?

I’m not ready for this with Kid No. 2.

I’m a pretty good mom, I think – I pack (mostly) healthy lunches, advocate for my kids (when they need it), snuggle them (with permission and/or on request), make sure they’re current on immunizations and dentist appointments and such, drive them all over creation to pursue whatever their current passions are, volunteer with the parent organizations at their respective schools, try not to embarrass them too much on social media. 

But I also have many faults, chief among them that I probably don’t push them out of their comfort zones as often as I should. If they don’t want to try chicken curry or sushi or Brussels sprouts, that’s fine with me. If they want to quit soccer or ballet after one season/session, it’s cool. They have chores to do, technically, but both of their rooms are disasters and so is my car because I’m just way too lax about it.

Anyway, my older kid loved sleepaway camp. She made up her mind to go for two weeks right after third grade, and when I picked her up, she said, after giving me an extremely cursory hug, “Next year, I’m going for three weeks!” And she did – for three more years. She was a camp diehard, and I got pretty good at it, too, figuring out the best lightweight camp towels, the most effective bug repellent, the name labels that weren’t fancy or cute but stayed on through multiple washes. (Then the pandemic hit and camp closed down and then she kind of got too old for sleepaway camp.)

I suggested, gently, to Georgia back when she was maybe 5, that she too might one day go away to sleepaway camp.

“No,” she said contemplatively after a few moments. “I like it here.”

“That’s OK,” I agreed. “I like having you here, too.”

Georgia, like me, doesn’t really like leaving home. The few times she has tried to sleep over at a friend’s house, she has called me to pick her up sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight – and a few other times, she didn’t even participate in the charade of it all and just asked me to pick her up at 10 p.m. and bring her back at 8:30 the next morning for blueberry pancakes. 

I think going away to camp has lots of benefits and I saw them firsthand in my older daughter … but I wasn’t about to force Georgia to go to camp. Again, I’m just not wired that way as a mom. 

But when she came home from school a few weeks ago determined to go to Camp Hardtner with a few friends, who was I to say no?

I’ve signed her up. I’ve paid the deposit. I’ve reviewed the packing list. I’ve reassured myself that it’s only five nights, not even a full week. I’ve read the American Camp Association’s tips for surviving homesickness. I’ve talked to her enough that I think she’s ready.

Still, though, I’m not sure I’m ready. 

She’s my baby. She likes it here. I like it that she likes it here. 

I know it’s good for her. Hell, I know it’s good for me. 

But that sure doesn’t make it any easier. 

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