Sleepaway Camp is Over…What Happens Next?

As the plane touched down and I saw it pull into the gate, my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest.  With my homemade signs in hand, I spotted my little guy’s blonde hair bouncing up and down through the crowd exiting the plane. Our eyes met…and he was home.

It has been four long weeks since I cuddled with him, smelled his sweet morning breath and had our in depth talks about life.  He is nine…going on forty .

As he melted in my arms, the tears were running down my face. I thought the four weeks would fly by and to my son, they probably did…but not for me.  It honestly felt like it had been years.  We didn’t let go of each other until we got to the parking garage.  It is never easy letting go.

My son was the king and I was soaking in every single second of having him home.  He was welcomed with signs, balloons, his favorite snack, tons of hugs and kisses and I was at his beck and call.  I knew he appreciated it all but his actions sent me a different message.

I thought the first thing my son would want to do is take a hot shower, but instead he just paced, unsure of what to do with himself next. I noticed his constant awareness of the time, telling me what he would normally be doing at camp.

We were both eager to tell our stories of what the last four weeks had entailed but when I returned from throwing in a load of laundry, I noticed my son was face down on his bed sniffling. When I asked him why, even though I knew the answer, he said he didn’t really know.  The emotional roller coaster was well under way.

While my emotions of happiness had clearly been written on my face all afternoon, I knew I needed to quickly shift gears and pay attention to his emotions.  Coming home after attending a sleep away camp for multiple weeks is a really big transition for a child.  They have gotten used to a schedule filled with tons of activities and options, a bunk full of kids their own age and a new sense of independence. What was once their norm is now unfamiliar, boring and way too quiet.

He was overwhelmed and was missing his norm.  I told him what he was feeling was totally ‘norm’al and that many of his camp friends were feeling the same way.  I wanted for him to be as excited to be home as I was to have him home, and he was, but that would come later.  For now, he was exhausted, sad and flooded with intense emotions.

I know it will take him a few days to acclimate back to life at home with his two brothers, the dog and two parents guiding his every move.  Having gone to sleep away camp myself, I remember those days of knowing the summer is coming to an end and realizing the amazing experience of camp again is now a whole year away.

As I write this, my son is sleeping next to me in my bed. He didn’t want to leave our side and I was happy to oblige.  He is so beautiful…he is home!

I wonder if he is dreaming of camp.  🙂