(We will be featuring a series of guest posts on the MTC blog over the coming months. This post is contributed by Heather A., camper parent 2017/18.)
Here is the portion of my blog post filled with genuine and deeply-felt praise, awe, and gratitude for the wonderful job Maine Teen Camp does. My daughter went to MTC at the end of a rocky first year of high school. The school year ended on a Wednesday and she was headed to Maine that Sunday. She left our house exhausted, strung out on academic pressure and social media dependence, living in a microcosm of harsh judgment and unattainable expectations from her peers and, even more-so, herself; a bundle of raw nerves. Two short weeks later she returned to us a happy, healthy, confident bundle of swoony memories of her best summer ever.
Was it the tech diet? Did the absence of FOMO-inducing Instagram and SnapChat posts allow my daughter to be present in her own life and able to enjoy what she was doing in a new way? YES! Or was it the comradery of being among people who were all so close to her in age? Was there a solidarity in knowing that every camper was truly a peer, going through the gauntlet of being a teen with her? Also YES! Or could it have been the judgment free environment that MTC seems to have perfected? The fact that the teens allow and encourage one another to be themselves and take risks in a safe way?
Absolutely YES! Was it the variety of activities, the beautiful setting, the amazing and kind staff, the food? Yes, yes, yes, and my daughter, a vegan who also happens to be a picky eater, raved about it! Was it a combo platter of positive experiences and meaningful connections? Without a doubt.
And now I’d like to talk a little about how sending my daughter to Maine Teen Camp was all about me. I’m kidding… kind of. Obviously, parents are a big part of the decision-making process so I just wanted to share my experience in the journey that brought us to MTC. First, I’d like to acknowledge that living with a teenager, or [gasp] more than one teenager, can have its ups and downs. It’s complicated and sometimes messy and can lead a parent to second-guess every decision. So after receiving information on at least 20 camps that offered different types of programs, the choice felt a bit overwhelming.
Add to this that my daughter had never been to sleep-away camp before. In fact, I had rarely spent time away from her at all. I felt confident that my main project while she was away would be managing my own anxiety, probably unsuccessfully. I didn’t hear from her right away. A day and a half of waiting doesn’t seem like a long time now, but it certainly felt that way at the time. I could have called, but I also knew that if anything was amiss someone would have let me know. My first contact was not a phone call or even an email from my daughter. It was the MTC web site photo and video galleries. I would like to say that I didn’t stalk those pages for updates, but that would be a lie. I wanted some small shred of evidence that my daughter had met friends and wasn’t miserable. The first set of photos and videos were published and I scanned each one looking for my proof. When I got to the video of the entire camp joining in sing-a-long to Sweet Caroline in the lodge while the rain poured outside, and I spotted my daughter, belting out her best Neil Diamond, smiling like crazy, and jumping arm-in-arm with a group of other smiling kids, I breathed again. That was followed by pictures of the activities, evening programs, hanging out with friends. And the emails started rolling in, my daughter using words I hadn’t heard from her during the school year like, “best,” and “awesome,” and “I never want to leave.” Phew!
So I could go on for ages about my MTC fangirl status, but I’m trying to keep this blog post to a reasonable length. And I think I prattled on past reasonable a couple hundred words ago. Suffice it to say my experience sending my child to MTC and my daughter’s experience as a camper there surpassed our expectations. It has been the happiest surprise.