Technology has certainly been a game-changer in the summer camp world. No longer do you have to wait 3-4 days after the mandatory “letter home in order to get into Sunday lunch” to find out what your daughter is up to at camp. The daily picture postings can usually give you a glimpse of your child every 2-3 days; daily just will not happen due to the many activities we are trying to capture. When my own son went to Camp High Rocks for several summers beginning when he was 7, I got to experience being a camp parent, so I understand how important those pictures are. You want to know that they are having a good time and that they are making friends, and a picture may not always be able to tell you that. Of course, most of this assumes you have a child who wants to have her picture taken. You would be surprised to know that some girls like to run from the camera. They want to do their thing. After one mom called for lack of pictures, I asked her daughter, and she confessed she deliberately hid from the camera!

Also realize a camp picture does not always capture the situation. Our photo mom does her very best to capture candid shots. This means your daughter may be in action and you might not get the best look on her face. She may have just run 3 miles or she is straining to reach the next rock hold or return a rally in tennis. Camp is also a place of great freedom. If your daughter likes a particular pair of shorts or a shirt, you might see those items a few days in a row. We will get them to the laundry, eventually. My favorites are the plaid shorts with the striped shirts, usually worn with knee high rainboots on a sunny day.

Enter the Email Reply Sheet…it sounds so simple, right. You send a second sheet with your email to your girl, and you eagerly await her reply to your questions. In theory, since emails are printed midday and delivered just after lunch, and you know rest hour follows lunch, you should have that email back by that night, right? We collect the emails from the outgoing basket on the Lodge Porch around 5 p.m. each day, and immediately get them to the fax machine…after unfolding them, smoothing them out so they can be read through the BizHub, and sometimes having to go over the handwriting in pen if the email has been written in pencil. I think you might be getting the picture of what the office work looks like at the end of the day!

Allow me to let you in on the secrets of what can actually happen to all those email reply sheets. Please also keep in mind how much the girls are juggling at camp, how organized they may be, and their age and how accustomed they are to writing letters. Let us start by assuming all of the email reply sheets make it back to the cabins with the campers:

Once you get back to your cabin for rest hour, the mail may end up being placed on top of your open trunk. A friend may have just asked you to play cards or make a friendship bracelet during rest hour. Before you know it, rest hour has ended and you race to Tuck. You try to remember to write your reply later. Later comes around, and you can’t find your pen available. Maybe you try that night in between circle time, showers and getting your things together for tomorrow. You just ran out of time. You try the next day, and you get it done. It is on the shelf by your bed. In the morning, making your bed, you see it. Thank goodness it didn’t fall off the shelf in the night and end up behind the bed against the wall! You would have totally forgotten about it. You don’t want to forget the reply sheet, so you might put it in your backpack. That way you will have it when you walk in to breakfast. A lot of announcements were made at flag. You want to sign up for a trip, and then you are a little late heading into breakfast. From breakfast it is straight to assembly, and then from assembly to activities. Next thing you know it is lunch, and you get another email reply sheet with your mail that day. “Okay, I know I wrote one. Didn’t I already mail it? I think I did; I know I meant to. I’ll save this one until tomorrow or the next day.” Two days later, you are looking through your backpack and you found the one you thought you sent. You make sure it makes it to the outgoing basket, and you figure, “Since I am sending one today, I won’t need to worry about the other two I have.” …and your parents just received news that is two days old, not relative to any of their recent questions…

Camp is a busy place, and as hard as it is, know that no news is good news. If your daughter has not written at all or only written once, it is because she is busy and fully engaged in camp. This is a good thing, and what you want for her. Take comfort in the glimpses in the pictures, and know that she will bring weeks of stories, accomplishments and discoveries home with her. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and by giving her the gift of camp, you have allowed her the opportunity to discover herself. The tales she will return to tell you will strengthen your relationship with her and allow her to feel that she has great contributions to make in your relationship. Your daughter is a very special and interesting girl, and camp is her world that she will share with you. Enjoy it all, when you hear from her…by the occasional email reply sheet or in person…