Dear First-Time Camper Parent:

I know how hard it is to send your 8, 9 or 10 year old away for the first time having done it myself this year as well. Yes, I come on faculty for a week, and yes, my little one has been at Camp Coleman before, so he knows the facility, but he has never slept away for more than one night, in another state, without a family member. Sending him away was tough, and the worries started…Would he eat enough? Would he ever clean his clothes? Would other kids tease him?

Then I sat at home and waited…waited for pictures to upload on the Campminder site and waited for letters to come. It took days, which felt like forever. Finally, I saw a glimpse of his day with a photo, but no letters.  IT IS TORTURE. For me, I knew that no letters were probably a good sign.

Sunday finally arrived for me to serve on faculty and I could not wait to see my kid. I wanted to run in to the bunk’s activity (drama) and tackle him. But he was engaged and fully participating with every kid in his bunk, including the ones who wrote those tough letters. I didn’t want to interrupt because it wouldn’t be fair to the drama specialist, the bunk, or my child. Why was I even worried in the first place? His counselors are stellar, the unit is a well-oiled machine, and they do more activities in one day than any parent would want to try to tackle in a week.

When you send your kid off to camp it is so hard. It’s like that first day of preschool when you stand outside the door trying to peek in and finally letting the tears roll down your cheeks because you know your child is growing up. Now you have to do it all over again. But, just remember you are giving your child a gift that only camp can provide. The gift of independence, problem solving without your help, negotiating friendships, learning to take care of him or herself, making choices about everything from food to clothes to activities, learning to love Judaism on one’s own terms, exploring, adventure, courage, and so. much. more.

If you get a sad letter – those are written during downtime back at the bunk. It just means you are missed and loved, but your child is ok. In fact, your child is probably having a blast, but you are hearing about the 5-10 minutes when they are thinking about you.  If you get no letter at all – well your child is probably too busy playing games in the bunk and doesn’t want to slow down long enough to write.

I’ve been here at Camp Coleman all week as a Rabbi, Jewish educator, and a mom. And now, I am kicking myself for expending so much energy the week before I arrived checking to see if photos were posted or if mail had been received. I get to see the magic of camp happen before me as the staff work tirelessy to create memorable experiences for your children that could never be fully described through a photo or letter.

Just remember, when we send our kids off into the world without us it is ALWAYS harder for us than it is for them.  They’ve got this, because you helped to prepare them and because Camp Coleman truly is a nurturing second home for them to learn and grow.

Wishing you luck and your camper the summer of his or her life,
Rabbi Melissa Stollman, Congregation Kol Tikvah, Parkland, FL (Ari’s mom, B1A)