Camp Woodland Blog

The Closing of Camp and Opening of Home: Advice from Your Campers

Posted by on August 2, 2022

Thanks to a suggestion from a parent who is looking for advice about the upcoming Parents Weekend, I am offering some thoughts your campers shared with me (without mentioning any names) about the transition from camp to home that will be occurring in a few short days. As mentioned earlier this summer for drop-off on Opening Weekend, there are a lot of clashing emotions – some understandable and relatable, others not so much.

Heartstrings will be pulled again as there are mixed feelings about the change that is about to happen. For those of you driving to camp, it will be noticeable when you join us for Parents Weekend. For others of you, it will take place when you pick up your camper/s from the bus at O’Hare or when you greet them at the airport in Mexico or other destinations. As one camper eloquently shared, think of it as the closing of camp and the opening of home.

Please know that as you read this, your daughter/s love you very much! They can’t wait to see you – 6 weeks is a long time to be separated. They are also a little nervous in anticipation of what this coming weekend means. It is hard to understand from your point of view, and it is hard to explain from their perspective. When I interviewed campers of varying ages, I framed it in a way that parents would like “advice” on how to “act” when they see you at Woodland or after the journey home. I am going to try to keep it as candid as possible so that it is genuinely their words and not mine.

For those of you who have campers on the young end of our age range or who are with us for the very first time, these girls don’t really know what to expect. Keeping this in mind, you may find some of their answers to be rather humorous. First of all they want you to know that all of the shows are going to be good. That is actually an understatement – they are going to be GREAT as I’ve been able sneak a few peeks in activities this week as they are rehearsing and practicing for all of the end-of-year shows. They are VERY excited for you to see what they have learned and accomplished in riding, swimming, drama, dance, gymnastics and arts & crafts (don’t worry – you can see other activities, too, on Saturday before the shows). They also suggest that you take lots of photos (for those of you not able to join us at camp, we will be posting these online and via social media). Oh, and if you are bringing the family dog, bring a leash!

They also wanted me to tell you that Woodland is the BEST. CAMP. IN. THE. WORLD. They want you to have fun while you are here. They want you to see the animals, the lake, and all the places they travel to and from during their day. Ask them questions about camp. What are the names of the horses? Which one did you like riding the most? Where do you eat meals? What is the favorite new food you tried? Where did you hang out during Rec Swim? What games did you play? Where did adventures take you in canoeing or sailing? Where was the Mother Lode hidden this year? Where did you find the CIT’s during “Alien Invasion”?

They want to tell you EVERYTHING! Listen to their stories about what they did and who was in their cabin. They also want to catch up on news from home. Did the dogs have fun? Was the extra room added? How is Grandma? There were a few requests like having their bed made, room clean, and favorite food waiting (LOL). And, they are looking forward to a BIG HUG.

The older campers are and the more years they have been with us, the more challenging the transition can be. These girls are looking for “space” to do their thing and be with the people here. They are very much aware of how hard it is going to be to say good-bye to their camp friends and summer “family”. They also don’t want to ignore you or make you feel bad. They understand it is hard for you too. These girls prefer not to talk about school, sports or activities, what’s next, SAT/ACT prep, etc. They want to stay in the moment of the here and now of camp for as long as possible. They need closure on this experience before opening the door of what awaits them at home or in the “real world”.

Veteran campers request that you take their sadness seriously. It is real. It is deep. It is unpredictable. You may see tears at odd times. Or laughing and crying simultaneously. Some campers may not say much on the ride home, others will be talking non-stop. You just never know. They will share when they are ready. Let it come in their own time. Show you are interested and engaged when the words start to flow. All they really need is for you to listen.

For those campers on the bus to Chicago, there will be multiple “good-byes”. They will be sad to leave camp and then once they settle in for the long ride to the airport, they are happy to be traveling with a bus full of people who were part of their summer experience. There will be another “good-bye” once they get off at O’Hare. For those members of our camper family from Mexico, one more farewell will take place once the plane lands in Mexico City. This is the final “adios” on the closing of camp and the opening of home. It is still hard to let go. Emotions are a tricky cast of characters. Your camper/s will appreciate your empathy as they make their re-entry. You may not understand it, and that is OK. Your child/ren will recognize the effort being made.

This weekend and the first few days home, campers just need a little time to process their experience. It will come in large waves at the beginning and wane as the days go by (but never completely go away). They will remember stories and snippets of the summer of 2022 indefinitely.

While some of what the campers said may be hard to take in, please don’t take it personally. Think of the wonderful gift you gave your daughter/s by sending them to camp. Often material gifts are novel for a short period of time and then they go unused or forgotten. You gave your child the VERY. BEST. GIFT. OF. ALL. TIME. You will see the effects of the Woodland experience all year long (and beyond!). We THANK YOU for sharing your most precious gift with us and hope you will consider having her return for 2023 (click HERE to register)!

p.s. The CIT’s are SUPER excited for you to see the Co-Ed Show on Saturday night at 7:30 pm at Towering Pines!

p.s. #2: It’s perfectly OK NOT to introduce technology right away (several campers even told me so)…they have been “unplugged” for 6 weeks and have done just fine without it (this could be a topic for another blog)!