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Your child's first experience at sleep away summer camp

“How does she do it?” my husband asks, when he describes the way our daughter bounced out of his car and ran, happily, into her first morning of day camp a few weeks ago. He is truly puzzled.

“That’s so completely foreign to me. Even now, as an adult, I wouldn’t willingly throw myself, gladly and smiling, into a room full of strangers,” he admitted.

“That’s just who she is, who she’s always been.” I said. “And it’s a beautiful thing.”

The adventure of first time overnight summer camp

Yes, our daughter is independent. And today she’ll grow even more so as she leaves home for a week at sleep away camp for the first time ever.

When a child at camp misses home, we call that homesickness. But when parent misses a child who’s at camp, what do we call that? Kidsickness? Doesn’t sound quite right. But, that’s what I’m facing.

She’s ready for her big adventure. But, am I?

She’s nine and this year has been a big one. Lots of changes, many almost too small to identify outright on their own but, when rolled together, make you take notice. This child is slowly starting to leave childish things behind.

Nine is playing, for hours, with Littlest Pet Shop toys, giving each one a complicated name only she can remember. But nine is also obsessing over One Direction (and remembering all of their complicated names too).

Nine is Rainbow Looming until her eyes are blurry but also wanting to paint her nails with swirls and tiny pictures. Nine is fierce, indignant independence one minute, and cuddling up to mom the next. Nine is eye rolling and deep “I’m so misunderstood” sighs and selective hearing and knowing more than you do, always knowing more.

But nine is also a spectacular time for long-awaited conversations about meaningful things like books and homelessness and gratitude. Nine is starting to get it and that baby whose eyes you gazed into, while relishing the idea of one day having lengthy chats of substance with her, now asks insightful questions and offers her own fascinating opinions.

At nine, her tippy toes teeter on the verge of adolescence and, while it’s thrilling to watch her change and evolve and develop, ever-so-slowly, into a young lady, my heartstrings still screech shrilly as she edges ever closer to that precipice.

What do you call it when a parent misses their kid who’s away at camp? And what do you call it when a parent yearns to prolong their child’s childhood for as long as they can?

When your child goes away to overnight summer camp for the first time



  1. Exactly! I so, so, so agree with this Colleen. As much as I long to cling to my boys as long as possible, I’m not being a responsible parent by not letting go so they can be independent.

  2. Mike McGinley says:

    Sounds familiar, when 34 years ago Colleen’s mom and I had similar thoughts.
    Proud dad and grandpa Mike

  3. This so described my daughter, she’ll be 8 this summer but still fits to a T. She begged to go to camp this year. We’re struggling with the idea (next year will be more likely). Thanks for sharing.


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