Sending My Last Child to Camp: Three Reminders To Myself

bus-picMy baby sending brother off on the camp bus last summer. This year, he’ll be on that bus!

Several years ago, my now teenagers went off to sleep-away camp for the first time. On top of learning about getting organized for camp (the fun part), I also had to prepare everyone (OK, me) emotionally for being without my little darlings (the hard part).

My newly minted eight-year-old will be going to sleep-away camp for the first time, for two weeks at the end of August. He will be my sixth child to attend sleep-away camp, and I find the same old worries creeping in. But, I’m reminding myself of three things:

  • He might evolve.

This kid is my picky eater. I’m pretty sure he will starve for the entire two weeks. While one side of me is convinced of this, the other side knows that he might just start eating what everyone else is eating and come home a different kid at the dinner table.

  • This is not about me.

He’s only eight. I’m honestly not ready for him to go. But here’s the thing – many years ago when I told the camp director that I was not ready for my oldest child to go to camp, she looked at me and said, “I’m sorry Julie, this is not about you being ready. This is about your child being ready. Don’t make this about you.” OH SNAP! I got schooled!

  • Even if I’m not ready, I better fake it ‘til I make it.

The last thing my kid needs is an emotional mother holding on to him for my own crazy mama reasons and preventing him from gaining valuable life experiences. So, I will tell him I’m ready for him to go and that although I’ll miss him, I’ll be just fine. Kids don’t need to be at camp worrying about how their mothers are coping without them!

Sending my last little one to camp is a big step for this mama. This is my baby and I’m feeling it. Hard.

What worries do you have being away from your kids, whether it’s camp or even a sleep-over at Grandmas? Has your child had some nights away from you yet?

Comment below and be entered to win a Mabel’s Labels Sleepaway Camp Label Pack!

Contest closes May 31, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. One entry per person, winner to be chosen by random draw. This contest is open internationally. By entering you are confirming that you are at least 13 years of age.

Looking for more tips to get your little ones ready for camp? Check out some of my other posts:

10 Things to Bring to Camp, 10 Things to Leave at Home

Helping your Child Adjust to Camp

Sleepaway Camps – are your kids ready?

Julie Cole

Author: Julie Cole

Julie Cole is the co-founding vice-president of award-winning children’s label manufacturer Mabel’s Labels. She has helped her company bring their product to a worldwide market, gain media recognition and win countless entrepreneur awards. Cole is a regular television contributor, an influential and syndicated blogger and a mother of six. Follow her on twitter @juliecole and Instagram @cole.julie

42 thoughts

  1. “Oh snap, I got Schooled” love it! So gonna be me too! Lol…whenever I send my little I always worry he won’t eat lol, so I leave a list a mile long, likes and dislikes, bedtime routine etc. Wheather it’s followed or not, I trust my family does lol and use to call before bed to ask how my little was doing lol…You do what you have to to feel better! As parents we will always worry, it’s in our nature! 😜

  2. My kiddo hasn’t spent a night away from me yet, not sure who’d be affected more, her or myself lol. Pretty sure she’d wake up looking for me.

  3. My daughter is doing her first overnight camp (2 nights) next month, I keep telling her how amazing it will be but really I’m panicking on her behalf! Lol!

  4. Ok, seriously, even if my kid did manage to eat the camp special pizza-pasta bowl, she would still refuse anything similar once home. I think she eats breakfast, and bread only for every other meal, but comes home hungry, dirty and happy. My little one is going on two night out-trip in a canoe this year, at age 9… it will be hard for me to sit at work while that’s going on. Can’t it be a little bit about me?

  5. My daughter is very shy and anxious but joined Girl Guides this year and will be heading off to their weekend camp in a couple of weeks. She is determined to go and I worry (a lot). However, I have to swallow that worry down and build her up to go. Thank goodness it’s just two nights to start us off!

  6. We do sleep away camp for cub scouts but they require a parent to attend with the child. It’s good one on one time.

  7. The kids haven’t had too many nights away from home. But I would love it! It would be nice to get away with just me and my husband.

  8. Great reminders as I prepare to send my 8 yr old to camp this summer. My best childhood memories are of summer camp and I’m so happy for my child to have some of her own.

  9. I worry who will comfort them if they feel anxious at night.
    I’m in the opposite situation- it’s time to send my first to camp. Although I am sure she will survive and thrive, I will still be a basket case!

  10. My oldest daughter is going to day camp this summer but it will feel like sleepaway camp for both of us as she will be staying with grandma and her cousins for the week. I know she’ll have a great time.

  11. This will be my daughters 3rd summer at sleep away camp and it still is not easy! Even though she goes to the MOST AMAZING CAMP EVER – I can’t help to always feel that “no one can take care of my baby like I can” mentality. At drop off she is quick to say her goodbyes so she can start her experience. I try to find a reason to linger but……
    She comes home with amazing new experiences and friends and stories… I am so glad I am able to do this for her… as hard as it is on me.

  12. My older teens have gone for years but my baby who is 7 has only gone to day camp.
    I think it will be hardest to send my baby to camp.
    I will do it but it will be hard!

  13. First sleep away camp this weekend … I’m pretty nervous; like yours mine is a very picky eater and will probably starve but the camp is only 2 nights!!

  14. We haven’t found a sleepaway camp yet, but mine is itching to go! I love the “it’s not about you” reminder! <3

  15. We haven’t tried camp yet, but they love nights away at grandparents. I would be worried that they’d keep other kids up!

  16. My son went to sleep-away camp last summer and loved it so much he’s returning this year.

    I wasn’t ready for him to go, but I kept a smile on my face until we dropped him off. Then in the car as we were pulling away I cried quietly to myself. Fake it ’til you make it.

  17. Great tips!! I always say I’m not ready for different milestones, but that lady was totally right…. it’s definitely not about us being ready, it’s about our kids being ready. Thank you so much for this post, it has a lot of great advice. Oh, and did your son starve?! Or did he try new food and survive?? Did he come away from sleep away camp with any new favorite foods??

  18. Mine is not 6 months but I already worry about absolutely everything. This was very a helpful read

  19. Sent my oldest to sleep away camp for the first time last year. She was 11 and it was for a whole month! Top it off with only 4 days to prepare as the opportunity came suddenly. There was a LOT of adjustment but we all grew immensely.

  20. It is my son’s first time going to camp this summer! He is so excited. I am the nervous mother sending my first off…but I know it will be worth it!

  21. My oldest is only 7, so he hasn’t been to a sleep away camp yet. I’ve only been away from lids for one night at a time yet. Cannot imagine two weeks!

  22. Haven’t had my kid sleep over anywhere as she is about to turn 6. I’ve never gone to a sleepaway camp, so I’m not sure I’d be down with that. I’d do a sleepover at a friend’s house first.

  23. This was interesting to read. I really wanted to send my 9 yr old this year, but I’m not quite sure he is ready. Maybe we’ll give little bro another year to be old enough and maybe they will be good together. 🙂

  24. Two of my three like to attend a week of sleep away camp each summer but my third daughter absolutely refuses to leave us!

  25. I haven’t yet sent any of my kiddos to an over night camp!! Your blog post makes me feels as though I am not alone and could probably try!!! Maybe this summer!!! Thank you!!

  26. My son is 10 and this will be his first summer going to a sleep away camp! He’s very excited. 🙂 I think he will love it!

  27. As hard as it is to let go you have to think about the life experiences they will have. They will probably have a blast and I will be a nervous wreak. I would worry if they are making new friends and getting along with everyone because kids can be very cruel these days. Also hoping they are behaving.

  28. My kids have done sleep away camp for years now and we always take our things labelled with Mabel’s Labels of course. My younger daughter has special needs and she is the one I worry about most. But last year we found a camp that was so amazing. The effects of that camp lasted all year long and she was only there for 1 week!!! This year she will go for two weeks and she is super stoked about it. I am too. I could see her confidence when she came home and she also had a bit of a new outlook on spirituality as a result. She grew a lot and made friends and really did exceptionally well especially since she has a lot of sensory issues that make outdoors and bugs flying near her really challenging. I think it really is the best case scenario when they return and they have grown in ways that they might not have at home.

  29. My 8 year old is heading to her first overnight camp this summer. She’s excited, and I think I’ve done a good job of hiding all my mom fears. It also helps that a trusted friend will be a counselor at the camp. My daughter gets to be away from home and feel independent, but I know someone will be watching out for her.

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