Matilda just finished with 3 weeks of day camp, and while that seems like no big deal, I’m so very proud of my girl. I’ve been talking about her kindergarten readiness for over 2 years for good reason…she has some emotional issues around new situations (that’s to say she doesn’t handle them well). It’s a big enough issue that we decided her on the cusp birthday warranted another year of preschool. When I heard from Pauline about a small day camp that focuses on outdoor fun along our favorite river it sounded perfect and I signed her up for a 3-week session. We thought she’d know another kid or 2 at camp but that didn’t work out. She was going to camp without knowing anyone. We braced ourselves for the worst…
Day one came and she was SO! EXCITED! for camp. She bounded out the of the car and into the area for her group like it was something she had always done. I watched, as my usually-timid girl introduced herself to another girl and started chatting away. My fears subsided a bit and I headed to work half-expecting a mid-day call. Although she’s been in daycare most of her life, my girl just does not adapt to new situations all that easily. When left in the care of an experienced daycare teacher with only 8 other kids that’s one thing, when leaving her with 3 teenagers responsible for 16 other kids I was a bit worried. No call came that day and when I picked her up she was so happy with her day that she wouldn’t stop talking. There had been bouncy houses, science experiments, baking and a river walk (well, a river SWIM for my waterbug). The fear of the unknown was no where to be seen.
Camp day one: before and after
As one day tumbled into the next she did great. There was fishing and bike riding, hiking and t-shirt decorating. More baking, a photography workshop (all of her photos are of things like spiderwebs and trees), exploding coke bottles, crayfish hunting and fort building. One of the kids in her group got bit by a water snake in the river and Matilda was mad she didn’t get to see it. A day trip to a local amusement park was the highlight of week one and she got to wear her official camp t-shirt.
A chilly morning start, field-trip day, by day 3 camp caught up with the camper
The end of week 2 was the main attraction – a camp out in tents. We prepped her all week with what to expect and when we returned to camp on Friday night to drop her off she barely noticed us leaving. My baby would be spending her night away from family for the first time ever. In a tent in the woods. Neither Mark nor I slept much that night, always on alert for a phone call to pick her up (the camp has a strict “no forcing” policy – if a kid utters that they want to go home they call the parents for pick-up). It never came. We picked her up Saturday morning, clad in pink and full of grins. Her favorite part of the camp out? “Sleeping on the ground”.
Week 3 was more classes and sessions: fencing, karate, a visit from the bubble lady, a carnival and a fashion show. Frogs were found, more crayfish uncovered and each day she came home in her spare outfit because her 1st one was so dirty. This is also when she learned that camp was continuing on for another 3-week session that we hadn’t signed her up for; she wasn’t too happy with us. But now we know that not only can she handle camp, she rocked it. Next year she’ll be an old pro and attending for all 6 weeks.
With her beloved counselors on the last day
And for me, those three weeks of camp helped prepare me for this fall when I send my first born into the abyss of school with 25 classmates. If she can handle a camp with snakes I think she can handle kindergarten.