My sleepover camp nightmare

My sleepover camp nightmare

This summer marks my first time sending my boys to sleepover camp.

I don’t know the protocol as I never even went to sleepover camp myself. But if a camp emails to say your kid is adjusting and having fun, I’m going to assume that’s actually what’s happening.

Instead, my son got off the bus after three nights at overnight camp and told me he hated it and is never going back there. “Why didn’t you get me?” he asked.

I would have gotten him if I’d known he was struggling to such an extent. Apparently, he cried the whole bus ride there, was made to take anti-nausea medicine if he wanted to sit in the first 10 rows of the bus and he was forced to shower naked instead of in a bathing suit, which would have made him more comfortable. He also tried to send me a letter, but because the tone of his letter wasn’t, “I’m having the best time ever,” the camp never scanned and emailed it to me.

It’s all pretty upsetting as a parent. If my kid wasn’t ready for overnight camp and wasn’t adjusting well, don’t they have a responsibility to tell me? Shouldn’t I be allowed to know what’s happening, evaluate the information and decide whether or not I should get him? And I know technology is a great thing and that email is faster than snail mail, but are camps allowed to censor a child’s letters?

On the other hand, I know it takes kids a while to adjust, especially when they are at overnight camp for the first time. By being brutally honest with parents, campers might never get the chance to adapt and enjoy themselves. If every parent came to “rescue” their child at the first sign of trouble, they would deprive their child of the chance to learn independence, life skills and have fun.

By getting them, am I teaching them that I’m there for them and support them no matter what or am I offering them a way out of every uncomfortable situation? If I leave them there to adjust, am I betraying their trust or helping them build confidence?

I have no experience to build on. What would you do?


Reply to
  • HeatherR

    I don't have any experience with summer camps, but I think the fact they forced him to take medication and shower naked when he was uncomforable with that is terrible:(

    • mattyc

      The only thing I would really be upset about is the forcing of taking medication (unless there was consent pre-trip on medication policy) and the showering naked.  Even then, both aren't the end of a world.

      Not sending the letter I completely understand. Every camp will have their own idea of what not adjusting well is. In the camps eyes, they don't want to send a negative letter home so that you as a parent start worrying and come to the rescue. As sometimes for protective parents, it's harder on you then the kid!  If the situation truly was bad and the kid was miserable, they would contact you. Which is probably why they didn't send it. They deal with homesick kids all the time and see those negative/missing home letters ALL the time. Did you talk to a camp Councillor ? Perhaps he enjoyed some of the other activities they did, but is only focusing on the bad with you ? 

      By him also knowing mom would come rescue him, he would have made no effort to really enjoy camp or make new friends and turn the situation around he would be sitting there counting the hours until mom came to the rescue. Did you tell him you'd come get him ? Is that why he asked ? He must have thought you were coming and just focused on that the whole time instead of having fun. Kids need to know that us mom/dad's aren't coming to the rescue at the snap of a finger. It's not for lack of supporting them no matter what.  It's the idea that over coming home sickness and making them stay is a huge accomplishment for kids, it teaches them independence, the ability to overcome uncomfortable situations, how to care for themselves,  how to meet new kids and make new friends, and everything else you said above.  If you went and picked him up right away, you'd be not allowing them to develop these skills or give it a chance. It takes kids a few days to adjust some times, and you aren't allowing them to take care of themselves and grow.  Often we'd get letters of kids missing home and then by the end of the week they don't want to leave their new friends.

       Not sure of the age, but perhaps he was too young to go or the camp chosen was not of interest to him. My kids always went to camp together or with a buddy, it made camp life a lot more enjoyable for them.  We also made sure to pick camps that interested them and looked like they'd enjoy the events and activities.

      So while you kid may be annoyed and hated it, I think you did will not flying off to rescue him and it really isn't as big of a nightmare as you are feeling it is. He survived his first camp sleepover and really learnt a lot of valuable life skills that he may not even realize. 

      • LCCA

        Overnight camp is not for every child and i dont see what the benefits are for sending your child for overnight experiences. I can see how some older children will find them fun and find their sense of independence but not for younger kids...maybe i am overprotective for many reasons.

        Regarding the behaviour of this camp, i would file a complaint against them. Unless you had signed a waiver to the medication i would be so extremely angry. Forced to shower naked infront of others? Why is that even a rule?? Let the kids do these personal things at their own level of comfort! These are just my opinions and i do agree they should have send you a note via email and it would have been up to you to make that judgement to go get your child or not. This was not a discipline camp!!

        • KaylaS

          I completely agree. While children can often times exaggerate or misrepresent certain situations, this does not seem to be the case here. Certain aspects of this situation sound disturbing and wrong on so many levels. As a parent, the choice to leave or pick up your child was yours alone. It was not the sole decision of the clearly disrespectful and neglectful people running the camp. It is not their child, so they have very little invested, except clearly not wanting to be perceived poorly or as giving a bad experience. With forced medication, showering naked & screening his little letter to his mom, it does not bode well for the camp. They did not even bother to forward you his letter with a disclaimer attached outlining why his pleas may have been unwarranted or exaggerated when that would have been simple to do. Maybe your son's concerns were warranted but the camp didn't want that information disclosed. These issues are all red flags and should be considered forms of abuse. I would have gone to that camp or phoned immediately, demanding answers, if my child was subjected to all that.

        • sue1907

          Nope, not OK in any way.  Research has shown over and over that kids can't learn when they don't feel safe and thus are in a state of alarm.  Think about it from your perspective as an adult even - would you have enjoyed feeling this way?  Being forced to do things that made you really really uncomfortable?  There is pushing kids to try new things that is healthy and positive, and then there is pushing kids in a wrong way that erodes any growth of self that might have occurred.  Independence is highly over-rated in our society - it is NORMAL for our kids to feel most comfy at home, with those they are most attached to!

          • Kaye

            personally, in this day and age, I wouldn't be sending my child anywhere overnight with strangers. We live in dangerous times. You didn't mention how old your son is, but can imagine being with strangers going away from home overnight is scary and overwhelming for any child. There are so many local day camps that offer the same interesrs as overnight camps. Why overnight?

            • KAYJAY

              I have three kids.  One of them LOVED summer camp, went every year as often and for as long as she could- was a counsellor and lifeguard when she outgrew being able to go as a camper.  One enjoyed it after the first 24 hours- always said he felt teary-eyed but was okay after that.  Never asked to go, but had fun when he went.  The middle child HATED camp.  Cried the entire time.  Wrote a journal that I had to burn because it broke my heart to read how he felt I was dead and would never see him again... he wouldn't sleep. He didn't brush his teeth all week because he couldn't find his toothbrush and was afraid to ask for help.  Horrible experience that broke my heart and made me so angry at the camp for not stopping it!  All kids are different and all kids cope differently. I'd take a few weeks to let it simmer down and if you decide to send off to another sleepover camp, advise the camp of the past experience and send them with some buddies who can help with the transition and homesick factor.  Don't write off camps all together.  My middle one will go off to his sports events on his own- we have been to a few away sporting events where he had to sleep away from me with teammates in different situations and he managed just fine.  The camp sees so many kids with different levels of homesickness, this is what they do all summer long- trying to just help the kids get through it and hoping they end up with more good memories than bad.  My daughter did it as a counsellor and would be exhausted at the end of every session from trying to talk crying upset kids into having fun and not missing home quite so much.  It broke her heart but she believed she was doing the right thing to keep them at camp and try to give them a good experience.

              • Caley T.

                I'd be pretty pissed off at the camp. He shouldn't have been forced to take meds or shower naked. It also isn't for camp to decide whether or not to send the letter. The mom knows the child better then the camp. I HATED camp as a kid and had to be picked up, staying longer would just have prolonged it.