“This Was Goodnight and Not Goodbye” By Kelly Mason Lichter
For those of you who read my first blog and wanted to hear my thoughts post-camp, I decided to share my personal experience as a parent and former camper. I still don’t feel like I am old enough to send my own children to camp, but it happened when they traveled 1,877 miles from hot and sunny Naples, FL to Grand Rapids, MN this summer. They were welcomed with cool temperatures they rarely feel, even during our Florida winters. I was confident that I packed enough warm clothes for them. Even though the packing list was a helpful guide, I had to create a “Florida” version, which included fewer t-shirts and shorts and more sweatshirts and long pants.
I hope this blog will help parents who may be considering summer camp for their children.
I also hope that you will feel more at ease while your children are away.
Part I: “While the Kids Were Away”
Week one without my kids was a challenge and it felt as if time stood still. I missed them terribly! There were tears and feelings of sadness at the beginning. Thankfully I could log in daily and see pictures of our campers. These photos made the distance and time apart easier. I emailed them every single day, which I won’t do next year (I will explain later). I admit that I was having a difficult time letting go. There were times that I worried about them and other times when I thought to myself, “I guess they will just figure it out on their own.”
Ok, enough with the sad feelings. Sending my kids to camp was also glorious for various reasons. Our house was perpetually clean and peaceful. There were no toys scattered around the house. I rarely did laundry, and there was NO bickering between siblings. Think about that for a moment: clean house and no squabbles for four weeks! Also, my husband and I went out ALL THE TIME!! We didn’t have to pay a sitter and frankly, I did not feel like cooking. We enjoyed being together, but we definitely added on more than a few pounds. As a result, our marriage is stronger, but we now have to go on a diet.
We also completed our extensive project list and purged the junk from the house. I became a regular at the local library and read many books that I hadn’t had a chance to read. In fact, one rainy day I stayed home and read an entire book cover to cover with no interruptions. Those four weeks allowed us to reset, reconnect and recharge our “parent batteries.”
PART II: “The Reunion at Mishawaka”
Reuniting with your children after four weeks is incredible! I couldn’t get enough of their voices, since I had not heard them talk for so long. They seemed different…more confident and grown-up. It is hard to explain, but it seemed like there was a cloud of joy and happiness that encircled them. That honeymoon period was pure bliss!
We traveled to Mishawaka at the tail end of camp and were able to watch sabotage and attend the final campfire. We reunited with old camp friends from the 80’s and 90’s and shared many memories and laughs. I know Mishawaka has experienced changes, but to me, it felt the same. I was flooded with dozens of fond memories and to see my own children running across main campus brought me unending gratitude.
Attending the final campfire at girls’ camp was emotional. I remembered most of the song lyrics and was reminded of songs I hadn’t heard in 22 years. When I heard the song, “I Want to Linger,” I realized that the time at Mishawaka is fleeting. Looking back I am regretful that I did not appreciate camp as much as I do now. My camp days are behind me, but the relationships created all those years ago are everlasting. I am hopeful my children will spend their summers at Mishawaka and appreciate the experience while in the moment. As of now, the discussion between them is whether or not they want to go to camp for four or eight weeks during their C.I.T. year. This is a good sign. They both want to earn their 40-week blanket.
PART III: “The Kids Are Home From Camp”
My break from motherhood came to a screeching halt when I opened their duffel bags. I spent the first 24 hours doing nothing but laundry and loving on my children. While unpacking their belongings, I discovered that my son did not open some of the cards I mailed him. He asked me (with a huge grin on his face), “Are you surprised?” Yes I was surprised! When I was a camper, I did not receive much mail, which made me sad. I have vivid memories of the after-lunch trips to my empty mailbox. I did not want my own children to have that experience, so I spent time writing emails and sent cute cards frequently. Initially I was disappointed that my son did not even bother to open my letters, but then I realized that he was too busy having fun at camp. Honestly, it was great that he “didn’t have time” to read my letters. Now I know that I do not need to write him as frequently next year. Children are so much more resilient than adults, and we don’t give them enough credit.
I wish I could share a before and after picture of my house. There are toys and lego pieces throughout. The occasional sibling spats have interrupted our once peaceful home. My husband and I have not been on a date in weeks. We are settling back into our normal routine and school will begin soon. The post-camp honeymoon period is over but life is good. At various points throughout the day, our children share their camp stories or we will sing some camp songs. I was a Chippewa as a camper, so I enjoy singing the Chip tribal song, and they respond with the Sioux song. It’s a truly special bond we now share.
Each of my children had their own unique and special camp experience. Looking back on the summer, I worried far more than I should have. They easily survived without mom and dad for four weeks. They are happy to be home and sleep in their own beds again, but they definitely miss camp. One day my son took tinker toys and built a hockey stick, so he could play floor hockey in the living room. They play two-square if they don’t have enough people for four square. They talk to us about their favorite friends at camp and the activities they hope to try next year. They also express which activities they do not want to do again and share some of the low points they experienced. I can’t help but think about all of the lessons they learned this summer and how proud I am of them.
Mishawaka is a special place and will be a part of them for the rest of their lives. For those of you who called Mishawaka your summer home, the following song should remind you that we wish we could linger a little longer but that it was “goodnight and not goodbye.”
Mm’m, I want to linger
Mm’m, a little longer
Mm’m, a little longer here with you
Mm’m, it’s such a perfect night,
Mm’m, it doesn’t seem quite right
Mm’m, that it’s our last night here with you.
Mm’m, when come September
Mm’m, we will remember
Mm’m, our Mishawaka days with you.
Mm’m, and as the years go by
Mm’m, we’ll think of you and sigh,
Mm’m, this was goodnight and not goodbye.