Brian and a few of his friends worked for several summers at a camp near our house. Now, every summer, one of his friends shows up from out of town to stay with us and drop his own daughters off at camp.
The first year they did this was about two weeks after Helen was born. The entire family stayed with us in what had quickly become a very cramped apartment, with new baby stuff piled everywhere. We had just bought a house and were getting ready to close on it and move at the end of the month. I remember spending the weekend worried about Helen making too much noise at night, and that our guests wouldn't get any sleep. The girls were pretty young - 9 years and 5 years old. Their mother spend most of the time shooing them away from the baby. No touching, no breathing, get away from the baby.
This year, I considered letting the kids babysit her while we went out at night. My, how things change.
Since their parents are out of state, they can't be here for visitation day. So last Sunday, I showed up with Helen at camp to see the girls. Checking in with the camp director, I learned that I could NOT drop Helen off in the youngest kids' cabin that day. I had packed her trunk already, so that was kind of disappointing.
I headed down to their cabins and met the oldest daughter on the way. She was so excited to see Helen. I heard all about the horses and archery, and she showed me where we could go to get our faces painted and have a piece of watermelon.
We found the youngest daughter in her cabin. I was sad to hear that she missed her mom a lot. This was her first time at camp, and she was having fun, but she had already decided not to come back next year. (And we'll see if that attitude changes by next summer, eh?) But there was a real casualty of homesickness in the cabin - parents were picking up another girl to take her back home.
I cannot imagine homesickness because I never experienced it. I spent eight summers going to camp, and the only time I cried was when my parents took me home. I loved it so much, I never wanted to leave! Brian enjoyed his time working at camp as well, and we've already decided Helen will go there when she's old enough. But now I've realized that it's our job to give her a few skills to carry her through a short summer session away from mom and dad. Things like making friends and dealing with new situations and enjoying new traditions - it's something that I think came pretty naturally to Brian and I, but maybe KIDS THESE DAYS just can't handle even a week away from the good life at home. Maybe if I spend the spring feeding her boiled ham and cabbage, she'll run to camp on her own.
Helen spent the afternoon running around or playing with rocks, eating rocks and getting her face painted. I don't think we'll have much trouble getting her to stay.