10 Surprising Things I Learned After Sending My Child to Camp

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Rebecca Hastings | Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hastings

I knew certain things about sending my kids to camp. I knew they would spend a lot of time outside and they would try new things. I was thrilled they would meet new people and learn more about something they love. They would swim and laugh and stay up way too late.

After they got home, there were things I couldn’t have imagined would be true—beyond the fun and the food. After the bonfire stories and the silly games they played, these are the things I didn’t see coming—and I’m starting with the hardest one.

1. They struggled, but it’s worth it.

Maybe they didn’t get the top bunk as they wanted or they weren’t able to stand up on the water skis. Maybe they missed home. Whatever the struggle, it was an opportunity for growth they would not have had at home.

2. They grew.

They left looking like your baby, and they came home looking more grown up. It doesn’t matter if they were gone the whole summer or two days. Independence makes them grow.

3. That last hug and first hug are the best you have had in a long time, especially if you have tweens or teens.

The hug right before they leave is hard, so you hug tight. When they get back, the simple act of having your arms around them again, well, that’s just magic. Except ….

4. They stink.

It doesn’t matter if they went to day camp or three weeks in a cabin. Hygiene is different at camp. Let’s be real: It’s nonexistent. But they survived and you can send them right to the shower when they get home.

5. The laundry will surprise you.

Somehow all the clothes will smell like damp gym shoes left in a garbage can for a week. This phenomenon is odd considering they wore the same clothes all week. If it went to camp, it gets washed. Clothes, sleeping bags, people—it all gets washed.

6. They need sleep.

You’re going to want to hear all about it, and they will be excited to tell you—for exactly 15 minutes. And then they will fall into a deep sleep, perhaps even sleeping through dinner straight until the next day. There is nothing wrong; they are simply exhausted from their adventures. It’s OK though. You’ll go in and check on them like you did when they were little, brushing back their hair and kissing their forehead.

7. They have friends you don’t know about.

They met people. They made new friendships. They’ll talk about these people as if you know them—just play along.

8. Camp store money was the best.

And, yes, they spent it all on candy. They’ll be fine.

9. Your letters, emails and texts meant more to you than they did to them—and it’s OK.

If they don’t remember what you wrote or barely toss a thank you nod your way, the communications served their purpose. They reminded them that you are always there for them and they let you feel more connected—a win-win.

10. Even if it was “the best week ever,” they are glad to be home.

They spent the whole week being on the go, go, go. Now, they are back to where they are safe and loved and can relax—and that feels pretty great for both of you.


Rebecca Hastings is a mom, motivational speaker, blogger and author of several books including the “Healing Devotional for Women” (Rockridge Press, 2022) and “Daily Meditations for Christians” (Rockridge Press, 2020). Visit her website at rebeccahastings.net.

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