Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Connor's First Sleepaway Camp

For a few years now, Connor has been attending Pine Cove camp each summer. It's a Christian-based experience for kids focusing on fun through nonstop sports and activities all while praising Jesus. Connor has enjoyed the camp so much that we've talked about sending him away to the summer overnight version. In fact, I was already planning on booking him in a week-long session next summer.

Recently our church planned a weekend trip to the Pine Cove Silverado camp for kids in 4th and 5th grades. Once I saw this 2-night option, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for Connor to experience the overnight camp. We gave Connor the choice to attend, but it was a difficult choice for him because it would require him missing one of his fall football games. After much thought, Connor opted to attend the camp.

We arrived early to enjoy a pizza dinner with the camp group. Connor seemed excited about the trip, but I noticed that he didn't know most of the other kids there. After eating pizza, we saw the big chartered bus outside and decided to peek inside.

Enjoying a quick pizza dinner before the campers left.

The chartered bus for the campers.

Very nice and comfy bus.

Connor and his buddy, Lucas, ready to board the camp bus.

When it was time for the campers to load up, we prayed over the group for a fun and safe trip. Everyone went outside and it took a while to load up everyone's things on the bus. As we were loading up, I noticed Connor clamming up and looking a bit apprehensive. The boys that he knew had not been assigned to his cabin, so he was going to be bunking with a group that he didn't know. I think that, plus this being his first sleepaway camp experience, was making Connor feel nervous. I tried to stay positive and reassure him how much fun he would have. We gave hugs and said our good-byes; I was so excited for the amazing experience he would have.

Ready with his bin to load the bus.

The camp leaders were using an app called GroupMe to send camp updates and pictures. When I got back home after dropping Connor off, I pulled up the app and noticed a new photo posted with the entire group on the bus. In the picture, Connor was in one of the front rows, and he did NOT look happy. I was surprised and wondered if he was ok. My Mom intuition kicked in and I was wondering if I had done the right thing by sending him to overnight camp.

I should stop here and say, at NO time in my kids' lives have they ever shown signs of homesickness or apprehension away from home. They've stayed with many friends and family members without ever having any issues. Especially Connor, who is my laid-back, easy-going child in any situation. So it just never occurred to me that he might feel nervous or homesick about going away to camp.

After seeing that very first GroupMe photo, I began scrutinizing every new update and photo posted the rest of the weekend. I noticed a couple of pics where Connor seemed withdrawn, but for the most part, he seemed to be having a great time.

Paintball wars (Connor in the back).

Camo night. Connor seemed more himself here, ha!

Connor's cabin posed for a photo at the Pine Cove Silverado entrance.

Connor's weekend at Pine Cove was a 2-night experience. When it was finally time to pick him up on Sunday afternoon, I was SO ready to hug my boy and hear about his weekend. It felt like forever for the bus to unload, but finally Connor disembarked and greeted me with a smile.

After loading up his things, we headed home and I couldn't wait to hear about his trip. Based on the latest photos shared with the campers' families, I assumed Connor would be full of fun stories to excitedly share with me. He was smiling but also somewhat pensive.

"So. How was it?!" I asked in anticipation.

"Good!" he responded. "It was fun."

Hmmmm. Not quite the reaction I was expecting. "Fun? That's it? That's all you have for me? Come on!"

He proceeded to tell me about some of the activities they'd had and all about the camp experience. He shared about the cabin environment, the late-night activities, the yummy food, and the worship and Bible times. He said he had fun and he was glad he went. But I could tell he was holding back.

"So, what do you think? It sounds like so much fun. Maybe you'll go to the full week of camp next summer?"

Without skipping a beat, he replied, "No, I don't think so."

I found out later from the church group leader that Connor had been a little sad on the bus ride over. There were some tears, she told me. I was so surprised, but more than that, I felt awful! I'm just not used to Connor experiencing emotions like that. It turns out that he was feeling quite lonely from not knowing most of the kids there, which was worsened by the fact that he was placed in a cabin without a single friend.

He had a great weekend and really enjoyed the camp experience and the Pine Cove environment, but we learned a very valuable lesson. Next time, assuming there is a next time, we will make sure to partner Connor with friends so that he doesn't feel isolated or lonely.

Here was the whole gang from our church.

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