Sounds like #3’s attempt at summer camp is going about the same as last year’s – poorly. Had a phone call from her counselor a little bit ago telling me that she’s terribly homesick, isn’t participating in activities, and on top of that, not eating much. Could I offer some tips to help them to help her? And would I be willing to talk to her on the phone?
Some background: Last year, #3 and a friend went to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Nearly two weeks of art classes sounded like heaven before she went, but the texts started coming fast and furious the first night. I hate it here! The food is bad! I want to come home! I enlisted #1’s help. She had had her own traumatic homesickness event at ballet camp several summers before, but miraculously was all better by day 3. #2 even sent a few funny picture texts. But nothing helped. Blue Lake allowed a parent visit at the halfway point, and both parents were begged non-stop to attend. Finally I texted back, yes I will come if you absolutely need to see me. However, I will not be taking you back home with me. She answered that maybe it would better if I didn’t come then. We went and got her at the end, and afterwards she wasn’t as upset. Yes it was hard, but the worst thing was the food and the rustic nature of the camp. She survived and it was over.
Fast forward to this spring. #3 excitedly asks to go to SpringHills Camp with her friend. Are you kidding? Remember last summer? No, no she reassures us – this is only six days. Totally manageable. One minor sticking point – it is a Christian camp, and #3 has definite agnostic leanings, if not downright atheistic. We talk to the mom of the friend about this. Not too bad she says. There is group prayer, but no one is going to single you out or make you feel bad. #3 says she can handle it. Think of it as a learning experience I, a PK, tell her.
And off she went. The other parents drove them up and I was going to pick them up on Friday. Then the phone rang on Tuesday.
So yes, I talked to her on the phone. She was nearly incoherent with grief, begging me to come get her. I reminded her that she’d also had a hard time last year, but managed to get through it and that was for a whole twelve days. This is only six days – really only five and a half. Surely she could suck it up for a few more days. Then the wailing really commenced. “Please, please, please come get me! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease, Mom!”
Heartbreaking. I told her to take a few deep breaths and calm down. I asked her to give it her best shot and participate in the activities because it would help take her mind off being sad. I reassure her that she can handle this and that I love her, but am not coming up until Friday. “But I’m so uncomfortable, she wailed. “They pray all the time!” As the sobs continued, I asked to speak to the counselor. “She is an extremely private person,” I explain, “and she’s very uncomfortable with the praying. Can you just allow her to observe and not call any attention to her?” “Absolutely,” I am assured, “We don’t want her to be uncomfortable and anyone can opt out at any time.” They put #3 back on the phone and I relay this info. She is steadfast in her begging that I immediately jump in the car and get her. Yet I didn’t cave in, and asked to speak to the counselor again. I could hear #3 sniffling in the background while I talked. “I don’t think I helped,” I said. “But, since I’m not there to evaluate her myself, I can only go on your recommendation. Do you think I should come get her?” They suggested giving it another day. “We’ll call you tomorrow and give you an update.”
I’ll keep you posted. I’m betting I have a long car ride ahead of me tomorrow, but here’s hoping she makes it until Friday.
UPDATE: The camp counselor called the next day and reported that #3 was doing much better, and that “once she spoke to you and realized that going home early was not an option, she decided to make the best of it.” That, and the hormones had cleared her system.