Saying goodbye to camp

On Friday, dd will finish her last day of her first summer camp experience. Kindergarten starts next week, and it didn’t make sense to keep her in camp for half of the week, with Kindergarten intruding midway through the week. DH and I are splitting the duty; he’s got her for a few days and I have her for a few days, and between the two of us we’ll now begin doing this comical dance that somehow provides us with coverage for days when she’s not in school while simultaneously keeping us from running afoul of the dregs of our paid time off pools.

It’s been a strange journey. I thought I’d write more about it, especially when she was such a sad panda for those first few weeks, crying about not wanting to go to camp before we’d even made out of the house, clinging to my leg like a wet leaf as I signed her in every morning. But somewhere around the 4th week, things went past clicking – and she really fell in love with it.

By then, she knew all the counselors’ names, and they all clearly knew her. They loved playing off her humor and they knew how to push her buttons to get her to smile or interact with them, and this increased my comfort level dramatically over the course of the summer. We’d originally been very hesitant to send her to this camp, since though most friends gave it decent reviews, we heard bad things from one friend whose daughter is a contemporary of dd. There were anecdotes of her dd coming home from camp still in wet clothes (they swim daily) and too-young, clearly inexperienced people tending to my friend’s child. But when I sent in dd, whether it was that she was a year older at the time that she went or whether it was just the difference between the two girls, dd just didn’t have those issues. She never came home in the wrong clothes, or in wet clothes, or in anything other than what I expected.

She came home happy.

She never face-planted into her dinner plate, as I’d been warned that she might, but she did come home tired every day…worn out from playing outside in the lovely summer weather and swimming in the pool.

And now she’s leaving it behind, for terra incognita. She’s off to Kindergarten, a whole new adventure.

We knew that things would change come the Fall; one drop-off would become two, breakfast and lunch would be on-us rather than served up at day care, and a backpack would be the norm rather than a rare exception. Camp was our opportunity to get everyone into that new routine a bit early. Our ds also needed some time to adjust to not having his sister RIGHT THERE when he wanted her, since day care allowed them to visit each other pretty much whenever they wanted. Camp set a serious geographic boundary between them that forced him to handle the day all on his own, and he’s done well with it. Oddly enough, when I come in to pick him up in the afternoons, his sister in tow, he blasts right past her with yells of “Mommy! Mommy!” and gives me the biggest, awesomest hugs ever.

It’s been quite the summer. It’s whisked by in a blur of trips and parties, with camp, daycare and work as the only things not on some kind of orbit. They were fixed points. And now one of them is changing – again. I suppose it will actually get easier; the elementary school is closer to home than camp. Still, it’s all more changes to the routine and somehow we just need to get into the new routine without somehow losing our collective nut.

So expect that I’ll still struggle some with lunches and snacks and the inevitable “OMG HER NEW MORON FRIENDS ARE GETTING HER INTO {name something I’m sure to hate}“. I suppose every parent goes through this at some point or another. It just seems like the summer raced by and I don’t know how it happened that my little girl, who it seems I only just put into day care, who only just became a big sister, is now staring down turning six in a couple of months and is starting Kindergarten in a week. ONE WEEK.

It all seems rather incredible, and yet I suppose I can believe it. So we’ll say goodbye to camp for now – with plans to return next summer (perhaps with both kids this time). And I’ll still think of her as my little girl, because (deep inside her) she always will be.

Coping with the changes of camp

This morning was one of the tougher ones to drop off dd at camp; she was nearly inconsolable. Clearly, some of this is related to her being SO INCREDIBLY TIRED from running around all day. She’s used to the more quiet, academically-focused day care environment she spent the last five years cloistered away in. Now, she’s in a day camp that spends the majority of its time outside, playing sports or swimming. It’s not that she’s led a completely inactive or sedentary life; she had some measure of time outside playing back when she was at day care. It’s just that this is so much more concentrated active outside time, and her brother’s still at day care, so she can’t see him whenever she wants.

So, while I have yet to see her do the legendary “face plant into the dinner plate” I heard so much about, she’s coming home beyond tired, and that exhaustion breeds a massive sensitivity that seems to turn her into a great melty mess. Of course, this has then gotten her into whining extensively about how much she wants to go back to day care and how she doesn’t want to go back to camp.

I’m hoping that some of this will be fixed with some sleep, and I’m trying to see if I can work from home on Fridays during the summer so that I can let both kiddos sleep in a little and get picked up a little earlier. There are no guarantees that this will fix everything, but it may make coming into the weekend a little easier. Since it took me nearly 10 minutes to dislodge her iron grip this morning at camp drop-off, I have to figure that there’s more we can do.

We also need to find a way to get her to bed earlier. It’s tough when both parents work full-time and you’re struggling, as it is, to give the kids enough time to eat their dinner and get a bath or some play time before bed. To have to try to push bedtime up to an earlier point is difficult without sacrificing something on the other end. We haven’t yet figured out how we’ll do this, but we need to do something.

I’m open to hearing from those who’ve been through this before, the transition to camp (and kindergarten) after a long stay in day care…maybe we can pick up on something that’ll be a magic bullet to solve this problem, even if it’s only temporary.

Confessions of a New Camp Mom

It’s funny how you don’t really think your life can get upended even MORE when you’re a parent and then, inevitably, something comes along and puts you ass over teakettle. We knew that day was coming later this fall, when dd heads off to Kindergarten; in reality, it started already, since today is her first day at camp.

Naturally, it’s not like we’re packing her off for a few weeks in the Hamptons; she’s heading to a day camp that’s about 5 minutes away from the day care where she was a mainstay (and BGoC) for the last 5 years. Still, it’s a big adjustment. Drop-offs and pickups just got a bit more complicated, since we now have to drop her off before we drop off ds at day care, and then we have to pick her up before we get ds (the hours at the camp, even paying for before and after-care, still run shorter than those of our day care center). She also needs to eat breakfast before she goes to camp, since she won’t be fed when she gets there. As if mornings weren’t difficult enough…

Food is also one of those funny little problems. We’ve been getting off easily for the last half-decade. Ever since she was weaned off the bottle, her breakfast, lunch & snack were taken care of by day care. I consider it baked into the price (no pun intended). Also, given the price we’ve been paying, they had better be feeding the children. This stuff ain’t cheap. But now we have to make sure she’s fed before she goes, make sure she has something to nosh on in the morning and the afternoon, and pack her up with a lunch that’s peanut-free (no worries there; unlike her little brother, she has yet to embrace peanut butter as a food group). You can buy lunch for as little as $4/day, but we wanted to make it possible for her to make and take what she wants.

So, her little (new) soft-sided lunchbox currently has a half-sandwich with tuna salad, a small container packed to the gills with red grapes, and a baggie stuffed with red, yellow and orange peppers (all her choice). Her snacks are a vanilla chip granola bar and a 100 calorie pack of chocolate chip cookies. Because I’m paranoid, I’m also sending her with $10 – enough to purchase a meal if something happens to hers and still have a few bucks left over to raid the snack machine for snacks, too. I felt the hit this week, as our grocery bill went up by several dollars; I’m starting to get a sense of how much we will start to have to pay weekly once she goes off to school in September.

And my biggest worry isn’t even addressed yet: it’s whether or not she’ll be okay. Of course, she WILL be fine. Plenty of kids go to this camp every year, and we have several friends who are sending their kids (dd’s peer group, from prior years at day care). It’s just her introduction into the world of being a little fish in a big pond. And we won’t be there to hold her hand, give her a hug, provide “uppies”, or any of that other stuff. From 7pm – 5-something-pm, she’s very much on her own. I can only hope she makes a friend early on.

DH also noticed that ds was having issues falling asleep last night because he knew a separation was coming, too. For his entire life, he’s had his sister very close by; and, for all but the few months when he was at home right after birth, he’s been able to see her basically whenever he wanted (the teachers at day care were very good about giving them visiting time when they wanted or needed it). This is dress rehearsal time for the Fall, when he won’t see her from early morning until early evening. We’ve had to get used to this, but we’ve got oodles of practice, since she started day care on her 3mo birthday. He has yet to see what this is like, so this should be a challenging week for us all.

Ultimately, I think we’ll all be fine and I think dd will love being at camp. She’ll get tons of outside time (which she didn’t get at day care), she’ll be far more active, and she’ll be challenged in ways that she wasn’t by a structured environment where the structure didn’t vary dramatically year-to-year. We’ll all be fine. Right now, it feels like we’re staring over the edge of a cliff, but I’m sure we’ll all be fine.