“Are you excited about camp?” I asked my daughter as I drove her to her first away camp.
“Yeah, and a little nervous” she admitted.
“Oh, you will have such a great time,” I assured her, practically choking back my own tears.
I figured she didn’t need her Momma blubbering to complicate her own feelings. In fact, I was glad she couldn’t see my face since she was in the back seat.
When we got her to her assigned cabin there were three bunks open. She asked me which she should choose. I pointed to the one at the back of the cabin by the air conditioner rather than the two by the front door.
“Well,” I offered, “that one might be a little more quiet,” I said, thinking only of my daughter’s need for solid sleep.
“I’m quiet!” said a blond girl in colorful clothes on the top bunk…by the door.
Claire quickly turned to the sound of the friendly voice and said, “I think I’ll go here.” We unrolled her sleeping bag right under her new, “quiet” friend.
About an hour later after I had returned home, the camp nurse called my cell phone saying he had Claire in the health cabin and her stomach was very upset. She mentioned being homesick.
“Is there any chance it could be nerves?” the nurse asked.
I didn’t know. This experience was new to both of us. The nurse recommended he keep her under watch a few more minutes before returning her to her group, hoping that this was just separation anxiety. He would call me if there were further problems.
I never got another call.
Instead I woke up to see pictures of my daughter on the camp’s secure link dressed in wacky clothes and engaging with the evening’s game.
I also saw pictures of the “quiet” girl dressed in wacky clothes and in a funny pose.
Each day this week, I have woken up to seach that link for new pictures of my daughter. I’ve seen her smiling during archery and helping cabin mates across a slackline. I’ve seen her running with the pack of kids and hugging counselors. (THANK GOD for the links to these pictures!)
And I’m 100% certain that the reason my daughter got through that first night of homesickness was due to the support of her cabin mates and counselor who built bridges of friendship. In fact, for all I know little, colorful, wacky “quiet” girl had a lot to do with it.
Sometimes all it takes is one friend.
Sometimes once voice or one offer is all it takes to give someone faith they can cross the bridge to a new experience.
As the summer comes to a close and we prepare our children with crayons, pencils and notebooks, it would be good for us to also prepare our children for something else.
It’s a great time to be preparing them to be looking for new friendships.
Many of our kids are starting school for the first time. Some are starting a new school. And some returning children will find there are new faces in their classroom.
Regardless of whether your child will be new or returning, have a conversation with them about reaching out to someone new. Remind them of someone who befriended them when they needed it. Emphasize how much it means to a person when they receive encouragement in a new situation.
Maybe if they see a child looking around the lunchroom for a quiet place to sit, your child could give a wacky wave and say with enthusiasm, “I’m quiet!”
Chances are that will make all the difference in the world to that new student.
And their moms will appreciate it.