Family life

Summer camp worries—already?

With registration right around the corner, Tracy Chappell worries about how her youngest daughter will handle summer camp.

1SummerCamp-January2014-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

I’m not sure if it was the little dose of sunshine from our week in Phoenix, but it suddenly hit me that I have to start thinking about summer camps for the kids.

Already? Yep. I learned from wise mamas before me that leaving camp organization until the last minute is a recipe for disaster. Many camps open up—and fill up—before the kids have even decided between the Scooby Doo or Angry Birds Valentine’s Day cards.

Anna has been doing the summer camp thing for the past two years, since she started school. We’ve cobbled together weeks at a few different camps—gymnastics camp, aquatics camp, “variety” camp—along with time with her grandparents and with us. There have been a couple of rocky experiences along the way, but summer camp has overall been a resoundingly positive experience for her. She’s learned new skills, how to be more independent, to adapt to new authority figures and peers, and she’s had a lot of fun.

This is Avery’s first year of all-day kindergarten, which means it’s the first time her summer isn’t taken care of by daycare. When I enthusiastically brought up summer camps with her at bedtime the other night, she got very upset. She almost started crying.

I understood how she felt, though I didn’t show it. The thought of her going to summer camp sort of makes me want to cry, too. Is it because she’s my baby, and she seems ridiculously young to be sending off to spend her days with a bunch of teenaged camp leaders and kids she doesn’t know? Did I feel like this the first year Anna went to camp? I think so. At least a little bit. I remember feeling nervous about her being so on her own and carrying everything around in her backpack all day and figuring out her lunch containers. What if she didn’t do a good job applying sunscreen? What if none of the kids talked to her? What if she got lost, or had a problem she was too uncomfortable bringing up?

Read more: Is my child ready for overnight camp? >

But it’s something more with Avery. She has such a completely different temperament—shy, reserved. I worry that she’ll be unhappy all day around a bunch of strangers and not even attempt to get involved. She takes a very long time to get comfortable speaking to people in positions of authority, so I mostly worry that she won’t find the courage to speak up if she needs help, or simply to participate.

Maybe I’m underestimating her ability to adapt, and I do know it’s important to give her new experiences like this, I’m just concerned that I’ll have to leave her crying her eyes out every morning. It’s not like I have a ton of options; I can’t take the summer off. I’ll just have to investigate camp options carefully. I wish she had a friend I could pair her up with for at least a few weeks through the summer, because I’m not sure there are many camps she and Anna can attend together at their different ages.

This parenting gig; it’s always something, isn’t it?

How do you handle summer child care? Have you seen introverts flourish in a summer camp setting?