Coming home from camp is hard.
There you are. For a few glorious days you wear what you want, make personal choices without intervention from a bossy adult, and are provided constant stimulation specifically designed for you.
It’s a little taste of kid heaven.
And then you return to the reality of parents who make you change your underpants, brush your teeth, use bug spray, and expect appreciation for food they prepare for you that you don’t even like.
It’s an unreasonable expectation.
Poor kids. They’ve got it rough.
From a kid’s perspective though, it is hard to go from camp’s activity and freedom back to the confines of his former life. It’s a little bit like trying to get your arms through a shirt that’s a size too small. With some contortions, you can do it, but it’s gonna feel squeezy.
As a parent, it is important for me to remember what it felt like to return to reality. When I came home after a camp experience, I felt confined, as if I had regressed and had my liberties taken away prematurely. Everything bugged me, my siblings and parents most of all. There were memories and inside jokes that no one else understood. And most of all, home was B*O*R*I*N*G. Where was the zip line and canoe trips up Hidden River? How could I be expected to keep up a positive attitude under such conditions?
Part of what makes camp so amazing is being a part of experiences that are both unique and shared. If you did that zip line all by yourself, it isn’t quite the same as doing it with a friend, the freaking out and communal terrification ahead of time (I made up that word – feel free to use it amongst yourselves) and the jumping jubilation on wobbly legs afterwards. Sharing the experience is part of what makes it so meaningful. And if the people you shared with are no longer accessible, there is a definite feeling of homesickness for them, homesickness for someplace other than home.
Our schedule happened to work out with the kids doing a three hour sport activity every morning this week, immediately following their time at camp. It’s too early to say if this is a good or bad thing. (Let’s just say that Bobo decided he wouldn’t go today, so maybe that’s an indicator? He assures me that he’ll participate tomorrow. We’ll see…) It is either a stroke of accidental brilliance, or extreme stupidity.
No matter what, I need to keep in mind that they will need some extra space and patience from me this week as they readjust. And maybe I can venture to give them a degree of greater independence since they’ve crossed the bridge of being away from home and family for a few nights. I’m not giving any guarantees, but I can try.
Do you have any suggestions on how to help kids who might be missing camp? How do you handle the return to routine when you’ve been somewhere special?