“It has been our experience that it is more often the parents that are having a difficult time adjusting to their child’s absence or overreacting to a child’s early anxiety at being away from home. Check your own feelings about having your child gone for an extended period of time. If you are not ready yourself, you may unwittingly make it difficult for your child to be away from you, consequently spurring feelings of guilt or feelings that he or she doesn’t have permission to enjoy himself or herself outside your purview.”
–Summer Camp Information Packet, Woodward at Copper
We picked our younger son up at summer ski camp last week with just a bit of trepidation. The night before camp ended we spoke to him on the phone. He sounded quite subdued. All was well he said, and then there was a pause. We could tell he was trying to keep it together, when suddenly he could no longer keep the tears at bay.
The next morning, my mom, our oldest son and I arrived at The Barn, the indoor training facility for Woodward at Copper. (Woodward at Copper is a freestyle skiing/snowboarding training facility at Copper Mountain, Colorado and the home of “The First Ever Indoor/Outdoor Ski and Snowboard Camp.” It is SO COOL that I am going to write about it, on its own, without motherly sentiment at another date.) In any case, our son had been very upset the previous evening because he wasn’t feeling confident about doing back flips. We walk into the barn and up onto the observation platform just in time to see him back flip seven times in a row on the floor trampoline, look up, smile and give us a wave. He then went off the big kicker, and practiced front flips off of the “cliff.” WHEW! All seemed well and it looked like he would live to see another camp.
It turns out that all was well – very well. He had a great time and he would be returning next year. Still, the camp material I had read about homesickness kept sticking with me. Was I ready for him to be away? Was I unwittingly making it hard for him to have fun when I am not around? Thinking I could forestall any guilt he might have about being thrilled to be away from us, I had specifically told him before he left that “We hope you have a great time at camp! It is great that you are going away to have fun.” Had that been too much pressure? Was I not clear enough? What went wrong?
Clearly nothing went wrong. He wants to return next year. He is completely proud of himself for what he learned and he is inspired to make more progress next time. Yes, he got tired. Yes, he was experienced the inevitable summer camp room-mate frustrations. And yes, I probably put way too much pressure on him to HAVE A GREAT TIME!!!! Next year, I will just tell him to “have whatever time you are going to have.” Or maybe I won’t say anything. I’ll just give him a hug, hand him his skis and tell him I love him. Then, the only expectations he’ll bring to camp will be his own.
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