Interpret this as a moment of success in your parenting!
Often when a daughter attends camp she will come to a place where she begins to impose a parental code of conduct that she expects her parents to follow on Riverview Camp opening day…and often she may be unaware that she is actually doing this to you! She may start saying her goodbyes at home or in the car on the way to camp… but once you have arrived in camp any prolonged displays of affection, attempts to make her bed the way “you” want it or arranging all of her things in front of her cabin mates, she may find “embarrassing”…even if you have agreed to do all of these things for her before you ever drive down the path to Riverview! Please interpret this as a moment of success in your parenting! “As parents, our children will always need us and our job is to give them opportunities to develop their own autonomy and independence in safe places…and Camp Riverview is one of those places”! Her actions may reflect that you are “ok to be present during check-in and purchasing things for me in the t-shirt shop, help me lug all of my bags to my cabin, and shake hands with my counselors, but after that, your parental duties are complete (in her opinion)…and she may expect you to say goodbye, and go away, thank you very much”! In one of our camper interviews, Margaret said “come to camp and get away from your parents” while her mom, Lisa, was standing there! And the mom knew that it was a good thing and interpreted her daughter’s motivations in her attempt to “grow up”!
Some may be taken aback by such requests, and many totally understood her yearning for independence. Toni, a Mom who has sent 3 campers to Riverview for over 14 years went to camp here as a child and feel that “As much as I adored my parents, I, too, looked forward to the autonomy I found during those glorious summer months away from home. I missed my parents, of course, but in their absence, I passed my swim test, jumped off of the zip line innumerable times, learned archery, canoeing and so much more…eventually spending 8 weeks away from home every summer (at my request) and that is why I have allowed my campers to begin camp as early as 5 ½! The fact that Andi is able to watch me walk away from her is a sign of strength — both of our bond as a family, and of her sense of self.”
Psychologist Michael Thompson indicates that childhood requires an endpoint, and it’s a parent’s job to raise children who can leave, children secure enough to turn away from the safety of a parents’ embrace and look toward the adventures and challenges to be found beyond…and camp is one of those places! In his book Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow, Thompson writes,
…in the final analysis, there are things we cannot do for our children, no matter how much we might want to. In order to successfully accomplish these tasks, to grow in the ways they need to grow, children have to do it on their own, and usually away from their parents, sometimes overnight, sometimes for days or weeks or even months.
Thompson’s list of developmental milestones — critical, essential milestones every child is going to have to navigate — is terrain our children must traverse on their own and they can do this at camp without the fear of ridicule.
So when you drop your daughter off at camp on opening day…honor “her rules of departure”… be present during check-in and purchasing things for in the t-shirt shop, help her lug all of my bags to her cabin, and shake hands with her counselors, and after appropriate helpfulness and hugs goodbye, (no visible tears because you have your sunglasses on) interpret this as a moment of success in your parenting! You truly are an amazing parent or guardian who will provide camp for her and in her heart she is saying “Thank you for raising me to be independent!” Good job!