Family life

How do your kids handle new summer camp experiences?

A week of new beginnings reminds Tracy of her daughters' true colours — and how they shine.

By Tracy Chappell
How do your kids handle new summer camp experiences?

Photo: Mlenny/iStockphoto

Last week was a big one for us. After a week away at the cottage, we plunged into Anna’s first day of camp and Avery’s first day at her new daycare. Because of the cottage trip, we’d cobbled together care for the kids for the first couple weeks of July (so we didn’t have to pay for daycare for Avery when we went on vacation). I was hoping to put off Avery’s start, thinking she’d have a tough transition right after our holiday, but I have to work, and she’s got to go somewhere. So it was time.
But first, Anna. She’s doing a number of camps this summer. Last week was her first: Gymnastics camp. It was only half-day, which I thought would be enough for her and it turned out I was right, even if the logistics of half-day camp are stressful. Anna was excited about this camp, but after the first day, told me she hated it and didn’t want to go back. I wasn’t surprised. This is very Anna. She leaps headfirst into new situations, which is a great thing, but she also has a view in her mind of what the experience will be like (which is not always based on our conversations about it). If reality doesn’t match up, she is very unhappy. So, after day one, she complained that it was just exercise and not any fun and her teacher was a boy. I convinced her to give it another try and suggested she ask the teacher to help her learn to do a cartwheel, because she’s dying to learn to do a cartwheel.
As is also typical Anna, she had a great time thereafter and was eager to go each day. I read somewhere that this inclination is called, quite literally, “negative first reaction.” I’m just glad it’s not so severe that she can’t be convinced to go back.
Avery had exactly the opposite experience this week. I was, frankly, surprised to have Avery excited and looking forward to starting at her new school right after our holiday. Whenever I talked about it, she was full of smiles and enthusiasm. She got involved in getting her backpack ready, choosing her hat, etc. and off we went that first morning. When we got there, she was quiet and held my hand for a while and asked me to stay until she got settled. I did, and when it was time for me to go, she kissed and hugged me and off I went. Phew. I was relieved and proud of her for being so brave. She has come so far. Day two went exactly the same way. I was delighted. Then, on the morning of day three, she came to my bed and told me she didn’t want to go to school. Argh. She was mopey and whiney about it all morning, saying she just wanted to stay with me. This is more what I expected for the first days. They were having a barbeque that day so we were playing that up, but it only seemed to make her more upset. We managed to get her going, but Sean did drop-off and told me later that she was clinging to him and they had to pry her off of him. So I was pretty upset about that.
But of course, when I picked her up, she was all smiles. Then she said to me, “Guess what, the teachers barbequed, not the kids!” What? As it turns out, she thought she was expected to cook her own lunch on the barbeque at school and was scared to do that. The things kids get into their minds! The teacher told me that Avery’s not talking to them, which didn’t surprise me, but is very sociable with the other kids and is having fun. (Avery did inform me that she was planning to “be shy” with the teachers for the first few days.)
So overall, it was a good week for the girls and I am so proud of both of them. Hopefully Avery’s enthusiasm picks back up for this second week at her new school. And this week, Anna begins her first all-day camp.We've done lots of talking about it, and after easing in to camp last week, I feel confident she'll love it. But I guess we’ll see how she feels at the end of the day today!
Are your kids in camp? Any first-timers out there? How are they enjoying the experience?

Photo by kellyv via Flickr

This article was originally published on Jul 30, 2012

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