So this was it. On Sunday, Mazzy left for sleep-away camp. This is her first time leaving home and she will be gone for four weeks. Crazy, right?
It was a tough decision to send her, because honestly, I was not ready. But, on the East Coast, it’s a pretty common way for kids to spend their summer. Most of Mazzy’s friends started their sleep-away experiences last year. We go out to the house for the summer, so I didn’t think her friends being away would affect her that much, but I didn’t take into account that her summer friends would start going to sleep-away camp too. Last year, Mazzy had a tough summer because there were so few kids her age at her day camp. It felt like she had aged out. Then it was a bit of a struggle figuring out what to do with her every day, since I felt bad leaving her at the camp. Specialty camps around us are typically less of a full day and a farther drive, so coordinating is tough for a working parent. That resulted in a lot more TV and iPad time than I would have liked.
Also, Mazzy really wanted to go away to camp. She was the one who brought it up as a possibility initially, earlier this year. We did a bunch of research and Mazzy was the one who ended up picking her camp. We took her to a camp fair and she fell in love with a small family-run camp after speaking with the director. The camp emphasizes a warm inclusive community and each camper gets to select their own activity majors and minors. The camp does two week sessions and she opted to stay for two of them.
We’ve been packing up her stuff for the past few weeks (so much organizing!), trying to get her prepared to take care of herself (like how to make sure the shampoo is all out of her hair without me checking) and trying to make sure she’s emotionally ready as well. I think she was less concerned about being away from me and Mike than she was about being away from Harlow. And I think she was more worried about how Harlow would fare without her, then how she would handle it herself.
For Harlow’s part, she had a little breakdown about how much she was going to miss her big sister this summer, while Mazzy was at a sleepover a few weeks ago. But then when I explained how she would have 100% of my attention, she perked right up.
“Harlow, you realize it’s just going to be you and me, right? Nobody is going to be there to compete with you on what you want to do. So, you can pick whatever you want to play, what you want to watch on TV, where you want to go out to eat. You can even sleep in my bed some times. Does that sound like fun?”
Harlow’s eyes went wide and she let out a sneaky little grin like she was getting away with something. “YES IT DOES.”
We opted to have Mazzy take the bus to the camp instead of driving her there. I remember the bus being a big part of the sleep-away experience from when I was kid, and a good transition to being on your own. For the record, my parents sent me to camp for eight weeks when I was a year younger than Mazzy. I hated every second of it, but I’m a different kid from Mazzy. I also was put in a small bunk with a group of girls who had all been there the previous year. It ended up being my first experience with mean girls. I switched camps the next summer and had a great time. For Mazzy’s camp, we confirmed that the majority of the kids in her bunk will be first-timers.
Mazzy didn’t express anything but excitement leading up to the day she left. But even though she seemed 100% ready for her big girl experience, she still brought her Boo with her on the bus. Not hidden in her bag, just in case. She was so confident, she had no issue with the other kids on the bus knowing she’s got a security blanket.
She also had no problem giving each of us a big hug before she boarded the bus. She gave us all the tightest, best hugs.
But I think she saved the biggest one for Harlow.
It was hard to watch Mazzy leave, but I am also really excited for her. I think it would feel different if sleep-away camp was our idea or if she didn’t have a hand in the selection process. On our way back home, I kept trying to imagine Mazzy getting to camp and unpacking her stuff— organizing her area in the bunk, making her bed, putting her toiletries into her shower caddy, etc. I could NOT imagine it. I don’t question that Mazzy will be able to make friends, but taking care of herself without our help is a whole other thing.
I’m hoping that being at camp is not just a great adventure and a place where she makes tons of new friends, but also a huge lesson in independence and caring for herself. Another thing I’m really happy about is that the camp is tech-free. No iPad, iMessage or Netflix. That has got to be a healthy positive thing.
I have also already sent Mazzy three letters and a care package and can’t wait for a letter back. Good old-fashioned communication that promotes reading and writing. I’m looking forward to getting some insights into my daughter that I wouldn’t get through regular conversations.
So. How am I feeling about sending Mazzy to sleep-away camp? Yes, I miss her. BUT. I feel like we made one decision and as a result, Mazzy is having four solid weeks of a positive experience where I don’t have to second guess my parenting.
It feels good.