Editor’s Note: What is it like to be a camp director and then suddenly find yourself on the opposite side, as a parent sending your child off to sleepaway camp? In this blog series I write about the adventure of sending my eldest child, six-year-old Mason, to his first camp experience. Previous posts include:
- Blog Series: From Camp Director to Camp Parent: Booking My Son’s First Sleepaway Camp Session
- A Camp Parent Night Helps Get me Ready for My Son’s First Sleepaway Summer Camp
If I think I’m busy during the so-called “off-season” as a camp director, and I am, that’s nuthin’ compared to what it’s like during the on-season in the summer.
It. Is. An. EXTREMELY. Busy. Time!
So suffice it to say that I didn’t have a single moment to think about packing my son Mason up for his first sleepaway camp experience. Bad bad mom! 🙂 Then, just as I warn our moms about waiting until the last second on packing, all of a sudden Mason’s first day at camp was less than a week away and I had plenty that still needed doing!
Organization…and Helpful Grandmas!
As a camp director myself, I understand the great need to have every single item labeled. After waiting so long, it was too late to order customized labels that already have his name on them so I had to think fast. Amazon Prime to the rescue! I ordered some generic stick-on labels that simply required me to write Mason’s name on them.
And when I say me, I actually mean…my mom!
My mom, Bonnie, who is also here at camp all summer, was so helpful in this process. She also recruited her best friend Tia, who works a few weeks at camp in Arts & Crafts every summer, to help with the labeling and sorting. Feel my love when I say, “A million thanks to Mom and Tia!”
There’s a part of me that feels terrible that I had to enlist help, but things are so crazy even leading up to camp, in the late spring months, that it felt impossible to get it accomplished alone.
Now that it’s the few precious weeks after camp when things are the slowest all year (but just for a few weeks before next summer’s enrollment kicks back into gear), I’m considering getting customized labels and starting to label clothes for next summer now! After all, labeled clothes are helpful even for school and sports, etc.
My mom also helped in the whole inventory process. She printed the packing list off of the camp’s website, and we checked things off as we got them labeled and packed.
I made a last minute trip to our own camp store to pick up a shower basket and some toiletries in smaller sizes.
And then the last thing I did was put together a folder of things for him to do during Rest Hour. I gave him some word search puzzles, a coloring book, and paper to write to us a good old-fashioned letter! My mom pre-addressed and stamped envelopes for all the family members so that all he had to do was stick a letter inside them (stay tuned to whether or not he actually did this in the next blog!)
And then the day came — time to go to camp!
Off He Goes!
The whole family set out to drop Mason off — good training for our younger sons as they see this ritual played out from summer-to-summer.
On the way there, my husband Matt and I talked to Mason about what we felt were some of the most important things for him to remember while at camp; to be kind to everyone, to be a friend, and if he sees someone who is sad or in need of a friend, to be that friend!
I say to him often “the most important thing is what kind of person you are.”
He seemed to quietly be taking this all in, saying “Okay” in a cheerful way, and nodding his head.
I felt he was going to do just fine!
A Camp of His Own
When we pulled into the camp, we were greeted by the directors. Since most of the campers come by bus, and this “mini camp” takes place in the middle of a longer session that is already in session, it wasn’t crowded at all upon arrival.
We went right to Mason’s cabin and one of his counselors met us. I was very impressed with this counselor! (more on that in my next blog)
Mason was thrilled his bed was a top bunk. We made the bed and unpacked everything. I showed him where all of his clothes and things were, and made sure he understood where it all was.
We took several pictures, and then it was time for him to go straight to soccer. We hugged him and told him how proud we were of him, and then off he went with his counselor.
And…there were no tears from anyone, not even me, which seemed like a miracle. But as I write this I’m a little teary thinking about how proud I am of him for going off on his own sleepaway camp adventure, and being so excited and willing to give it a shot!
As we drove off, we realized we had forgotten his favorite stuffed animal back at Alleghany… stay tuned for the next blog to find out what happened.
I hope you’re finding this blog series helpful. I may know a lot about running a camp, but Mason is my first child and I’m learning that whole parenting thing as we go along. I love seeing being a camp parent from your side of the fence. And I can’t wait to share with you more about what Mason’s first camp experience was.
So again…stay tuned!
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls