When the Baby Goes Off to Camp!


It’s been a while since I have added to my Camp-Director-Turned-Camp-Parent Series, and I wanted to make sure the youngest of my children didn’t get slighted in this series. About 7 years ago my oldest son, Mason, went off to sleepaway camp for the first time, finally putting me in the category of Camp Parent. It was such a positive, eye-opening experience for me to be on the other end of things (read here for more details on this experience for me!), and has really helped me to relate to all of our camp parents. Since then, he has gone on to a second sleepaway camp in addition to a Scout Camp, and pretty much spends his entire summers sleeping outdoors and loving camp. My middle son, Ellis, followed suit a few years ago, and finally, the baby of the family Noah got his turn last summer as he joined his big brother Ellis for two weeks away at a sleepaway camp. And for the first time since before I had children, I was actually solo at camp for two solid weeks!

Preparing Noah for Camp

Noah was on the much younger end of things to be going off to camp (age 6, just like Mason was!), but he was really ready to join in on the fun that his brothers had been experiencing for several years. He’s traveled to various camps to drop off his brothers on Opening Days, so he has had a visual on these camps – where they sleep, where they eat, the activities, etc. And of course, he has grown up at Alleghany – starting in the womb! (I was pregnant with Noah during the infamous flood of 2016 at camp, and many thought that I named him Noah for that reason!)

We had a few things to help him accomplish on his own before going away – he was already showering independently but hadn’t learned how to turn the water on himself and adjust the temperature, so we worked with him on that; he was clearly using the toilet on his own by this age but also had some work to do in that department; and he was not used to making his bed or doing few other household tasks on his own simply because, well, he’s the baby of the family. He was accustomed to his brothers doing a lot for him, for better or for worse, so we spent a few months ensuring that he could do these things independently – including serving himself his own food from a serving platter and plating his own dinner, making sure his dirty clothes made it into the laundry basket (still working on that one!), and more.

Fears and Anxieties

Noah wasn’t an exception when it came to some fears and worries about going to camp. Despite being ready, watching his brothers go to camp, and asking to go himself, he still worried about being away from mom and dad, making friends, not knowing what to do if he felt lonely or needed help, what to do if he felt sick, and more. Luckily his brothers jumped right into these conversations and gave him lots of details on how to navigate these situations. BOTH Mason and Ellis experienced homesickness and sadness initially when they got to camp, so they could share their experiences in this department and how they handled it. Then of course they shared the basic logistics of the infirmary, the helpful counseling staff, and more. I have to say – Mason and Ellis were much more helpful in these conversations since they had directly experienced this camp themselves! It also helped that his cousin would be attending the same session and would be in the same cabin with Noah, so he had a built-in friend ready to roll.


Yet despite all these conversations, assurances, bolstering of his confidence, and family members in camp with him, Noah definitely experienced some significant homesickness on the first couple of days of camp. It goes to show that this is a very normal experience for children, no matter how much we prepare them or how many familiar faces are in camp with them! I wasn’t surprised, as I remember Mason’s first experience with camp and homesickness, but I also remembered how he pushed through it and that gave me confidence in Noah.

One thing I love about the camp Noah attended is that they call within the first 24 hours to give parents an update, and they don’t sugarcoat things. So they honestly told me he had been very teary. Again I wasn’t surprised, nor worried really, as I knew this was part of the experience and that he would come out of it. I also love this camp, adore the directors, and trust that their staff was handling this appropriately and comforting Noah in all the right ways.

Noah later told me that at dinner his first night he was crying so much that his counselor took him outside to the porch to help him calm down and talk him through it. He told Noah that this was going to be the best two weeks, and that he’d make sure Noah had a really special time and loved the activities. Noah said (in his 6-year-old way) that this particular counselor and moment were instrumental in helping him feel better and turn a corner (of course the next day I received a call from the nurse about Noah’s extremely puffy and red eyes, and the medicine they were giving him to help out… poor guy! He did totally recover from all this… ).

The Parent Side of Things


As I mentioned, we did get a phone call letting us know how he was doing, so we were aware of his homesickness as well as his poor eyes, and I could have let it just break my heart or destroy my emotions, but I held firm in my trust and confidence in both the staff at his camp as well as Noah himself – of course I was sad for him, I’m his mom! But I knew he would pull through and enjoy it, and in my heart and gut I knew this would be a positive, learning, and growing experience for him.

This camp posts photos daily for parents to view, and slowly but surely we started seeing pictures of him laughing, smiling, having a blast with new friends, and genuinely enjoying himself. I am pretty sure I didn’t even call or text the directors to check in on him, since I had this visual and knew he was in a good place. 

Noah’s Experience

As most camp parents are, we were overjoyed to pick up our sons at the end of the two weeks and hear all about their experiences. I always LOVE the shared bonding experience the brothers have when they attend camp together – singing songs together, laughing over funny moments from camp, talking about favorite traditions… nothing seems to bring them closer than going to camp together. 

Noah was able to very openly articulate his initial sadness, what helped him overcome it, and what he loved about camp. Since then we’ve had the best time talking about his experience and what he’s looking forward to next summer. And to top it off – he’s going to add an additional camp to his time away, so he’ll be adding even more weeks of sleepaway camp to his summer! It is just crazy for me to think about being kid-free for that many weeks at Alleghany… times are changing! Maybe I’ll have to start a new blog series on empty-nesting at camp…

Character Building Experiences

We say it all the time, and it can sound cliche, but summer camp really does build character in so many ways. The independence gained is just one huge area, but also navigating all the feelings –from sadness, to disappointment or discouragement (Mason didn’t pass the swim test his first summer and it really motivated him to try harder for the next year!), learning how to ask for help, lean into those who are helpful, and more. I am so proud of Noah for braving it, working through these emotions, and coming out of this experience joyful and just a tad more mature and independent. 

Being a Camp Parent has only solidified my passion for being a Camp Director – it proves that what we do is so beneficial for not only children but their families, too!