(We will be featuring a series of guest posts on the MTC blog over the coming months. This post is contributed by Todd B., camper parent 17/18).
I am the dad of a thirteen year old, strong willed daughter and this is my story.
From the age of seven to sixteen I went to a renowned summer camp down south. Not only did my two sisters go to the sister camp down the river, my wife did as well. All of us lived for this camp. We thrived in sports, earned ranks as we mastered these sports, belted out camp songs year round and made a few memories along the way. It was a no brainer for my wife, my sister and I to send our children to the same camp where we spent our summers. So we did.
The day finally came when the camp bus dropped off my daughter from our beloved sleepover camp. My wife and I ran to the bus stop so excited to see our first born and vicariously relive camp stories.
“So how was it Piper? Did you love it? ? Did you have the best time?” We geared up for an epic answer. Piper pulled away from our bear hugs and replied, “It was fine. I was a little bored.”
SHE WAS BORED? SHE WAS BORED?!
We drove her home and immediately began the interrogation. Softly and surely we heard these words from our twelve year-old, “I’m not going back to that camp, it wasn’t interesting to me.”
Eventually she told us she didn’t want a camp so sports centric. It was very goal oriented and had a competitive undertone. She wanted a camp that balanced sports and the arts. She didn’t want a camp where everyone was from the same area. She was interested in meeting different kids from all over. She didn’t want a camp that separated boys and girls like her school did. She wanted a camp more gender inclusive. She wanted a change.
Well okay then… and thus began the journey of finding a new camp. I mean how hard could it be?
Okay, so remember when I thought “how hard could it be?” I know, right? What was I thinking? Week after week, hundreds of letters, emails, pamphlets, and DVDs came pouring in. We actually had to hire a “camp whisperer” to decipher all this camp code.
The whisperer mentioned to us that she had heard good things about Maine Teen Camp. I initially couldn’t stop thinking about the movie, Meatballs with Bill Murray… “Eyes right gentleman!”
She then went on to put us in touch with a family who sent their daughter there and we all communicated.
We weren’t quite sold yet but getting close. We emailed and then spoke to the MTC camp owners and my wife and I were instantly put at ease. We knew Matt would have our daughters best interested in mind. We knew she would be safe and protected. We knew she would meet boys and girls her age as well as older and younger kids from different cities, countries and continents.
We pulled the trigger and decided. MTC was happening.
On the two-day drive, Piper looked up from her phone and said, “I'm not going to know anyone. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. What if I don’t like it? I think I made a mistake.” She also mentioned she would now have to start over and be the youngest again in this camp.
“It’s all good. We’re almost here. You got this, there are tons of other first timers that will be there with you and you all will be in the same boat.”
When we pulled in and saw the beautiful huge lake that wrapped itself around the camp, the blue skies with post card, puffy clouds, the amazing cabins, the kids running to each other hugging to reconnect, while cool jams played in the background, we knew it was the right place.
Piper still did not.
We got our daughter situated in her cabin, met her friendly counselors, and instead of the regular shoving us off, “umm…you can go now mom and dad.” She insisted that her mom stay with her for an hour or so while we were all toured around camp by a very friendly counselor that happened to just be walking by.
After the scenic tour we said our goodbyes and drove off after which we were sure we would immediately hear from her by email, phone call or letter….nothing…crickets.
(As it turns out Piper would go on to meet her “bestie” within the hour.)
It was only after camp that we learned that our daughter was having a blast, song writing, running, photography, wake-boarding, tennis, “Fun-town” (a local amusement park), beach trips, camp fires, shows, dancing, more wake-boarding. (We would eventually get a few brief emails later.) By the lack of communication, and brief emails, we knew we picked the right camp.
After three weeks (she now wishes it was longer) we picked our daughter up from the airport. During the initial car-ride interrogation, I can remember her saying in the midst of her many warm stories that just “hanging out with friends” were the most enduring times. These were friends from all over the world, “it was amazing to listen in to all the different languages that were being spoken at the same time.” Even though she couldn’t understand the language at times, she mentioned that there was comfort in knowing that real friendships hold no language barrier.
Piper said she wasn’t going to cry at all when she was leaving and saying her goodbyes to friends. As the bus pulled away from camp, she had an onslaught of tears, emotions, flashbacks, and hyper- ventilating in both joy and sadness.
And thus begins the post camp blues.
When she returned home, she went into a small camp depression, spending her first few days making herself a camp music highlight video. One morning after she returned home, I busted her belting out camp songs in her room as she danced wildly around. She told us about camp fires, arts and crafts, water ski-shows, and her amazing stories ran on well into the night. I asked her recently if she still keeps in touch with her friends from Europe and the U.S.
Her reply was, “Yes, all of them!”
I’m going to say that my rookie camper came back from camp very happy. We are extremely glad with our choice in MTC. I strongly believe that MTC had such a positive influence on her and made her summer the most incredible and memorable one to date.
For that I say, thank you Maine Teen Camp!