The sun shined all day yesterday and last night was just perfect for cane pole fishing. Our work crew cut about 100 cane poles for campers, and for many campers it was their first cane pole fishing experience. That’s right, we use good old fashion hooks, bobbers, and worms. This method is pretty effective still in catching fish. As the sun began to set, we started up the campfire and roasted marshmallows and enjoyed the quiet evening. We got a special treat too last night. Mr. Mike (my father) told the story of Asia Jones and then led us in a sing song around the campfire. We tried to get the campers in bed a bit early last night, because after two full days of camp, they were ready for bed.
I love fishing at Camp. It’s not necessarily because I love fishing, but it’s because fishing at camp is a unique opportunity for counselors to spend quality time with their campers. Campers and counselors sitting on the bank, laughing, sharing stories, listening to the crickets and the frogs…this environment for some reason facilitates strong friendships. Maybe it’s because campers don’t have any distractions, like TV. It really is a peaceful and fun evening, and it happened again last night.
Today we have another full schedule. We’ve got activities in the morning, Hike to the Carving Trees this afternoon, and the famous Cookout, Karaoke, Storytelling, and Truckride this evening.
Our tennis program got off to a great start yesterday, and our most veteran instructor, Pam Adams, got a chance to lead. Pam was a stellar tennis player growing up in Lubbock, Texas, and still enjoys playing today. She and Mr. Mike even entered a few couples tournaments back in the 1970s. It was great seeing Pam back on court yesterday; the campers are in for a treat this week. They will have 2 more lessons this week and Pam will be this session’s instructor.
Some of you parents may have received your first letter in the mail, or a faxed-back version of a letter. Some of those letters likely mention homesickness. After two days of Camp, especially for campers who have never been away from home, this is pretty normal. Campers have now spent three nights away from home in a new environment; this is a very different experience. If this is your child, take a deep breath….now breath again. This experience is very normal, and thanks to you mom (or dad), you’re allowing your child to grow.
I had a remarkable conversation with a 10 year-old camper this week who was homesick. He was at lunch and looking a little sad. I asked the camper, “How are you doing?” He said, “Okay, but I miss my mom.” I knew this was likely the case, and right away wanted him to know that what he was feeling was normal— that it was okay to feel that way. That helped a lot, and you could see a bit of relief on his face. Then I told him the story of when I got homesick as a 9 year-old.
You see, I grew up a camp kid. My parents ran Camp Huawni, so “going to camp” as a 6 year-old wasn’t a big deal. Now granted, I’m pretty sure I ran to my parent’s house at night a few time, because I was homesick. But, for the most part, camp was home for me. BUT, when I was 9 years-old our dear friends, Tom and Rhonda Hill, (also in the Huawni Family) told us about a baseball camp in Oklahoma that we should try out. I wanted to go so badly. So I went.
This camp was all about baseball. The first day I was fine, until night time. I began getting homesick and missing my mom. During the evenings, this camp would show a movie, and that was pretty much our night activity. This camp also had a pay phone for campers to use to call home. At night, you’d see this long line of boys, quarters in hand (or phone numbers in hand to dial collect…remember dialing collect?), ready to call home. I think I called home every night for the first week, asking for my mom to come pick me up. Now, looking back, that pay phone was the worst thing for me; it only heightened my level of homesickness. Why? Because instead of engaging in what was going on at Camp, I constantly focused on finding a way to persuade my mom to pick me up. Thankfully, my parents did not pick me up, and the second week of camp was much better because I knew I’d see them when camp as over.
What was the result of me conquering two weeks of Camp? I now could visit my grandparents on my own for a week. I could now go on vacation with my best buddy Josh to Galveston and not get homesick. I was more independent at age 9.
So after sharing this story with this boy camper, you could tell he was encouraged. He knew first of all that it’s a normal feeling, and he knew too that I could empathize with what he was going through. I told him the way to feel less homesick is to dive head first into his activities and get involved. I told him to share with his counselors at night when he was feeling that way so they could help him. I told him as the week passed, the feeling likely would be less and less. I ran into him later that day, and he was raving about how he’d jumped off the Critter repeatedly and how he’d signed up for Talent Show to play piano. Instead of worrying about mom coming to pick him up, he was now requesting for mom to send him packages in the mail. It was a small victory for this camper, all of which would not have happened had he been in the presence of his parents. I’m so proud of him, and to my knowledge he was hardly homesick at all yesterday.
This week, hopefully tomorrow, I’m going to begin reviewing, via our blog, the book “Homesick & Happy”, by Dr. Michael Thompson. I want to dive into a discussion with you about how time away from parents can help a child grow, and how Camp may just be the very best way to do that.