My twin boys returned from overnight summer camp just a few short weeks ago. As I wished for their return, I was aware that I was also wishing the summer away. And just because I wanted them home, didn’t mean they wanted to be here.
Re-entry—the return to a once familiar place after a period of absence—was so complicated. The boys had spent seven weeks immersed in a new environment where they let go of their routine and shed a part of themselves. Re-entry for me meant asking questions, but in a subtle enough way so they didn’t know I was prying. Or listening when all I wanted to do was ask more questions. Getting close, but giving them space. Allowing them to dip their toes into the cool water, slowly finding a rhythm and pace to their return.
The twins are almost fifteen. It would be too limiting to say they’re fourteen, when their minds and bodies are beginning to push the limits. I’ve studied their camp photos daily, the pictures the camp has posted to their website that document the swift passage of time sweeping through my children’s bodies. Slow down. Please. Stay my babies a little longer.
In a world where technology and social media have stained the purest forms of childhood innocence, overnight summer camp is both a luxury and a step back in time. It is the ultimate disconnect from the electronics that have held their fingers hostage. It is a safe haven for building lifelong friendships, the idyllic place that will remain in their hearts long after they have parted. Where else can you have a sleepover with your best friends that lasts seven weeks? Where else can you be that person you lost during the school year, the one who is swathed in the insulated cocoon of campfires, songfest, and brotherhood? And sure you have to make your bed every morning. But it’s a small price to play for wakeboarding on the lake, Color War, and kissing that girl for the very first time.
Some Benefits Of Camp
Both authentic and artificial, overnight summer camp teases through simple pleasures until those touched are fully immersed. The ties to home and the trappings of youth are shorn with the first sip of bug juice. It is no wonder departing from such a bucolic existence plunges them into the delicate balancing act of re-entry, with no preparation for the return to academics, early alarm clocks, or their parents’ expectations.
There’s no playbook for the onslaught of Instagram posts, FOMO, or the collision between home friends and the raw, nostalgic grasp of those they left behind. And as a mom, nothing prepared me for my sons’ quiet indifference. The gentle hugs that were at first long and hard quickly became shorter and lighter.
I may never know about the girl they kissed or how often they brushed their teeth. Pretending I didn’t miss them with every single breath, I watched as they pored over their phones for the connection to camp. There’s no rulebook on how to suppress my own feelings of being shut out.
All of that re-entry from overnight camp abruptly ended with the start of school. The mornings are hectic. There is screaming about homework and exams. And in the not so distant future, we will all be counting down the days until summer rolls around again, followed by yet another re-entry as our boys continue to grow up too quickly.