I’m sure if I wasn’t a camp director and knew little about camps I’d probably also feel distraught at receiving a downcast letter from my child bemoaning his fate at camp and how much he wants to come home.
I’d be heartbroken.
But fortunately I am a camp director and I know that, in reality, homesickness at camp is, 999% of the time, a tide that rolls in at an unexpected moment of quiet or a confusing moment of trying something new. And then the tide rolls out again and homesickness is forgotten.
Home isn’t forgotten. But homesickness is.
I don’t know if I can be a comfort to any first-time parents who worry about whether their daughter(s) will feel homesick. But I’d like to try.
You’re not alone
To that end, I’ll point you to this wonderful article, “Homesickness and the letter,” from the excellent camp website Camp Champions.
The author, Camp Champions co-director Steve Baskin, does a superior job of explaining how the tidal mood of homesickness creeps up on a camper, usually prompting a heartfelt letter pleading for relief. He writes,
So on the first or second day of camp, during rest hour, you sit on your bunk and long for home. Chances are that two hours ago, you were fine because you were riding behind a boat or on a horse, but now (remember, you are at rest hour) you have nothing to do but think about home. You break out the pen and stationary your parents sent you with, and you write the most powerful prose you can imagine.
And with that the child sends his or her parents into a tailspin of misery. UNLESS! Unless they know that this tide is temporary, that almost all kids feel it on a first time venture to camp — or even to grandma’s house for a weekend!
This too shall pass
So if I can console you, assuage your worries, help you gain perspective on your child, and feel connected to the fact that all parents feel the pangs of sorrow and confusion when they get “the letter,” this is how: I’ll encourage you to read Baskin’s homesickness letter piece.
And then trust that it is true that for the vast majority of kids homesickness at camp comes in like a lion and out like a lamb…and soon as the next fun thing is on offer. And except for very occasional “relapses,” after the first time or two of feeling blue, it almost disappears entirely.
Then you’ll have a new problem on your hands: She’ll cry her eyes out when it’s time to go and beg you to stay for full term or to come back next year!
At least there’s never a dull moment!
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls