Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Homesickness, the Worst Feeling in the World

Independence, development, blah blah. It's part of the human compact: if your damn kid calls and begs to come home? Get in the car.

This, from the comments:

We have a family story in my family: one of my aunts went to summer camp and when her father visited she cried and cried that she wanted to go home. The camp director told him to leave her, that she would get over it. He replied "I'd rather leave my right arm."

My aunt grew up into one of the most independent people I have ever known.

Taking them home from the sleepover? Don't even hesitate? Camp? DO YOU HAVE A KID WHO SHOULD BE AT CAMP? Maybe not! Maybe have them stick it out for a week? I don't know. But get them if they need you, for pity's sake.

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Our family story: The first time my parents left me anywhere overnight I was about 2, and they were going on a camping trip. I happily waved goodbye from my grandparents doorway. About two minutes later they turned the car around, and came back and got me. My Mom couldn't do it. And she was an overbearing Mom for the rest of my life.


I think it's clear.@n


I was evidently "camp sick" after my first sleepaway camp experience. My older brother couldn't wait to come home.

I expect it's one of those, you know your kids better than anyone else, and so you make your calls the best you can, you know?


@PistolPackinMama Yeah. Different kids require different approaches, and the same response is going to indicate differing levels of stress coming from different kids.

The advice to not salt the earth by acting upset yourself is great, though, especially since it can be a little counter-intuitive.


@PistolPackinMama Every single time I went away from home, I was "[insert activity here]-sick." Back at home, I would cry for days on end about wanting to go back. Those experiences are easily the most memorable I will ever have, and they sure as hell beat sitting at home with grouchy parents.

Tragically Ludicrous

@PistolPackinMama I used to bawl like crazy when I had to leave my summer camp. I loved it so muuuch. (Once my aunt had to pick me up and I think she was overwhelmed at my outpouring of emotion. She's not the greatest with young people anyway, and I was an overly dramatic 12-year-old...)


@olivebee This is exactly how it goes for my kid -- she hates the idea of going, but then once she's back home she's eager to sign up for the following year. She's always thrived in social situations and makes friends easily, but doing new things is scary! I ultimately went to my first Hairpin meetup because I was stressing the importance of doing things that make you uncomfortable and I realized how hypocritical it would be of me not to go to an event that lasts several hours at most while she's being shipped off to week long camps. I was going to let her back out of one the camps partly because she was nervous about it, mostly because I was stressed out about it, but she decided on her own she wanted to have the experience after all.


@klaus That's awesome, especially that she made the decision herself! Good for her (and you)!

And for the record, I was more nervous about my first pin-up than I ever was for going to any summer activities, so I totally understand.


@olivebee I skipped my intended first Pin-up because I was too scared.

Elizabeth Switaj@twitter

@Tragically Ludicrous I am so glad to hear that I am not the only one who did this. Of course, my parents rarely actually saw me crying because we left camp ON A BOAT because I went to the best camp ever, and I'd usually gotten all my crying out on the trip.


There's no right answer.


I will always be grateful to my mother who immediately jumped in the car and made the 4.5 hour drive to my school in something like three hours when I called home, sobbing and hysterical, my first week of university. It meant so much that she came to visit me instead of telling me to get over it. My homesickness disappeared after that.


@likethestore <3 MOMS.


Hypothesizing: Maybe your homesickness was more the desiring the personal support of home, and not the physical location? Your mom demonstrated she would continue to support you although you were away, so you weren't as anxious--whereas, with someone who missed the personal security of their actual home environment would have been equally upset when the visit ended.


@Inkling Thank you, Sheldon Cooper!


As a kid who was shipped off to camp and other away-from-home-for-5-weeks activities every summer growing up (ages 7-16), I kind of have to disagree a little bit because I think it depends on the reason the child wants to come home. One year, age 11, I got put in a cabin at camp with all the inner-city girls who were able to attend camp with grants, and they were MEAN (not to me, they totally ignored me, but to everybody else). It was 6 of these girls, and me, and I just could not find common ground with them no matter how hard I tried. I wound up feeling what I thought was really homesick, and I cried and cried to my parents. And instead of caving, they arranged for me to switch to a new cabin. It was the best summer at camp I had in the 5 years I went.

There is always an underlying reason behind homesickness. I've found that typically, it's because a child isn't getting along with one or a few of the other people there. If the situation causing the homesickness can't be remedied in any way, then fine, take your child home. But my personal opinion is that you should look for a different solution first.*

*I may be a totally weird case because I've always loved being as far away from my parents as possible, and they didn't start getting even remotely attached to me till I moved out of state as an adult.


@olivebee Ugh, the part about the grants makes me sound like a snob. I really only pointed it out to underline the fact that I couldn't find anything in common with them (and vice versa) as a middle-class kid from the burbs.


@olivebee It sounds like you just don't get homesick, but for those of us who do, sometimes the reason behind homesickness is actually that I want to be at home. In which case there is no "different solution" to find.


@SarahP I hope you didn't take my comment to be judgmental at all (because your response sounds like you did). I don't think there is anything wrong with homesickness; I just feel like there is usually a reason (missing my cats was a big one for me). But as @Weasley and @ikkepagrasset said eloquently below, counselors and camp administrators are pretty good at finding out the reason and attempting to fix it or take their mind off of it somehow. Like I said, if it's a be-all-end-all thing, and there is JUST NO WAY to cheer the child up, then take them home. But I do think it's a learning experience, homesick or not.


@olivebee Oh, sorry, I think my italics made it look defensive instead of like thoughts, which is how I meant it. I think "finding out the reason" is key, but sometimes the only reason for homesickness is the desire to go home, in which case I think kids should be able to go home!


@olivebee I had a similar experience in high school when my parents sent me to parochial school in the inner-city. The city girls were so mean, they stole my bus tickets and threatned me daily. I was too intimidated to tell my parents or the sisters. I just prayed to survive long enough to graduate and go to college. Since this was my third high school ( I was an unmotivated student), I'm convinced my folks would have instructed me to just get over it.


My father wrote a hilarious letter to his parents from a sleepaway camp, where he describes it as though it were a gulag, and threatened to run away. They proceeded to pick him up, and a few days later he was begging to go back to camp because he was so bored. They drove him back, but they never let him live it down. The letter is a really amusing insight into the mind of a 12-year-old.


@amity Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda...

Don't suppose we could get some choice transcription, can we?


@amity "I no longer fear hell, because I've been to Camp Krusty"


@cosmia "Don't we get to roast marshmallows?" "Shut up and eat your pine cone."


@cosmia: "Our nature hikes have become grim death marches. Our arts and crafts hut is, in truth, a Dickensian workhouse."


@cosmia "Uh, are you sure that's safe?" "Well, it ain't gettin' any safer."


I only went to sleep away camp once as a kid, and called my mom to get me the first night. She told me to give it a day, and I'm still glad she didn't get me. I have lots of memories of being at camp that summer, great and otherwise. I do agree that one should always immediately rescue their child when mean girls are afoot though. My mom had a sixth sense about that that I still admire her for.


The first time I went to sleepaway camp I called my mom three times a day from the payphone in the hall. However, this probably more to do with my best friend being taken to the hospital the first night, and then all the other girls making fun of me the whole time. Oh and also peeing my pants during the talent show.

I went to a different camp the next summer. My parents didn't hear from me.


Best to pick up your kids before Jason or Jason's Mother or Angela Baker get to them.


I worked as a counselor at a camp for Autistic children and someone of the campers would get the standard homesickness but then it would be made infinitely worse by the Autism. My camper (at this camp every camper had their own counselor) had a major hysterical meltdown the second day of camp. It was brought on by the three hours of water time and he was afraid of water and then it started to rain. The camp had a strict no-calling-the-parents policy and I think that was a good thing. The camper calmed down and ended up enjoying the camp. He even went down the water slide on his last day.

He was a younger camper and the difference between the young campers and the teenagers who had been going to camp for years was incredible. The older campers were independent more social, etc...

I think it's important for kids, not just Autistic ones, go through these experiences and realize it's not the end of the world and that life still goes on.



Basically I think camp isn't a vacation for the campers. It's a vacation for the parents and it's meant to challenge the kids to grow. Part of that is feeling homesick or missing their parents and learning to cope.


@Weasley My sister and I went to Epilepsy camp right after she was diagnosed, so she was probably 8/9 and I was 10/11. I had an AWESOME time but my sister was totally traumatized by seeing all of the kids with waaaay worse cases than she had. Kind of the opposite effect of what it was supposed to do.


This reminds me...3 of my summers away from home were on trips with this national organization called People to People Student Ambassadors. For some reason, in college and adulthood, whenever I mention it, NO ONE has ever heard of it. It makes me feel like I dreamed up ages 13-15. Are there any other P2P alum 'pinners out there? *Voice echoes in the emptiness*



Meeee! I went one summer to the UK


@Weasley Since your feelings about camp are very similar to mine and we both did P2P, I'm thinking we had similar upbringings.

Back on point, though: my first P2P trip was to the UK (and Ireland) as well! (I think it was 2001 when I went). It was so much fun...I even got a "boyfriend" on my trip, and so when we did horse-wagon rides through the mountains in Ireland, I was all "swoon, how romaaaantic!"



Oh man this is awesome! You are also the first person I've met in the wild who did P2P. I had a boy who wanted me to be his girlfriend but I turned him down. Then I was a "lesbian". My trip was in 2004 and I had a great time! I jumped in a bog on a farm in Ireland than had to sit through dinner clothes that belonged to the farmers 10 year old son.

Did you go to Loch Ness? That was my least favorite part of the trip. The boat captain spent the entire tour giving us a detailed history in how he discovered the deepest part fo the lake...


@Weasley Hahah I love that story about the clothes! And no, we only went to (all over) England and Wales besides Ireland, so no Loch Ness. I found the Waterford Crystal factory tour interesting for the first hour....then it went on for what felt like another 4. My biggest issue with P2P trips was that there were a lot of guided tours that went on for WAY TOO LONG.


@olivebee I did P2P! Our trip was through western europe when I was 17. It was a great experience, even the night when my parents (i.e. mom, who hadn't heard from me the first half of the trip and was freaking out) called one of our hotels and tracked me down when I was hanging out with the cool kids and it was SO EMBARRASSING.



Hahahaha the Waterford Crystal factory. I forgot about that. Yeah, the guided tours did get tiresome. I liked the more free form things better. Like in Wales we worked with the park service to cut down and burn an invasive species of tree. It was awesome. We all got saws and we started a huge fire.

Did you stay in Wells England for your home stay? That became my favorite part retroactively because they filmed "Hot Fuzz" there.

Where else did you go?


@kmc Ha! I totally had the same thing happen. I only ever called my parents out of obligation. Too much fun to be had!

@Weasley Jealous about the outdoorsy stuff! We didn't do a whole lot of that on my UK trip (though we did in Australia). My homestay was in Portsmouth, England, and it was great! Their older daughter (who was 16 to my 13) took me shopping. I gotta run to a meeting, but I will post again later when I think of more things we did...


@olivebee I didn't do this, but I did go to Ireland for a month when I was 16 for this program called The Irish Way. It was pretty amazing, and I definitely wasn't homesick at all. Then again, I have always been sort of a "See you later, parents!" kind of person.


@olivebee They're definitely still around; one of my friends from high school works at their headquarters.


summer camp is a horrible nightmare. things that i experienced or observed:
- getting locked out of my cabin because i didn't shave my legs when i was 11
- getting called "beast" by my cabinmates AND THE COUNSELORS because i didn't shave my legs when i was 11
- watching another girl in my cabin (the only one less cool than me) get called "queefball" until she cried several nights a week
- pretending to be sad while all the other kids sobbed at the end of camp, but secretly being really excited to go home and get away from all the crazy people
- really wanting to go back to camp anyway, because maybe the next year i would suddenly be cool!

to be clear, i wasn't homesick or co-dependent on my parents or anything. i just hated summer camp.

young preeezy

@blahstudent Yikes, that sounds horrific. Yeah, I never went to summer camp and I don't feel any deep regret or anything like that. I did 'summer enrichment' programs, which were basically creative arts day camps that took place at the local high school. They were fine, I made some cool things, had fun with theater and plays, but never made any lasting friendships or amazing memories. I also lived in an apartment growing up, so I was never really bored at home. There plenty of people to see, thing to do, my best friend lived one floor above me, etc.


@young preeezy yeah, i liked day camp--stuff to do! i think i just found summer camp to be way too socially intense. there's all this pressure at summer camp to make Best Friends and Fall In Love and have the Time of Your Life with people you just met, even if they are boring and/or jerks. i think you can, paradoxically for this particular thread, be too independent for summer camp. what if you just need your space? there is no space at summer camp.

Porn Peddler

@blahstudent On the subject of homesickness, YEAH, NEVER HOMESICK, JUST HATED CAMP.


@blahstudent Jesus, your counselors were... complete assholes. I retroactively hate them for you now. Also, as someone who wore sweatpants all the time at 11 (even in a hot gym during basketball games) cause I didn't shave my legs yet either, I feel you. Thanks again, mom, for all the things you never, ever discussed with me! (I'm pretty sure the first thing I ever stole was razors when I was 12).


@katiemcgillicuddy the counselors were just kids too, right? they seemed so adult to me, but they were just the characters in wet hot american summer--only actually teenagers, not just pretending.

my mom still tells me that my legs are hairy only because i shave them! some people just don't understand hairy legs.


@blahstudent Yeah but, still, I was a camp counselor and I can't imagine ever treating an 11 year old like that when I was say, 16.

In regards to WHAS, does anyone know if they ever confirmed that they were doing a sequel/prequel?? I can't figure it out and its driving me batshit because I so, so hope they do.


From ages 6-9 I had insomnia, and I would get extremely lonely and panicky if I tried to force myself to stay in bed/fall asleep. Usually after an eternity of internal wrestling (and kicking my sister's bed very gently in an attempt to wake her up so I'd have someone to talk to), I would shuffle into the living room, crying, and tell my parent's I couldn't sleep. My parents were very firm with me about it, and only occasionally would let me sit in a chair in the kitchen quietly waiting it out while they did whatever it is that parents do once the kids are in bed. Those were hard years, but I knew that if I was at a sleepover and the insomnia/loneliness/panic hit, I could wake up an adult and call my mom. She never offered to come get me-- but I knew that if it really was too much for me to handle, I could ask her to come get me and she would. That only happened twice; most of the time she would "talk me down" and I would decide I would be okay if stayed. By the time I hit age 10 I was excited out of my mind every time I got to go away from home for any extended period of time, and I never dealt with the paralyzing insomnia thing again.
I know everyone's experience with this kind of thing is different, but I know my parents were able to navigate me through an incredibly scary few years by being calm and telling me to try my best to master my fear, but never denying me a way out when it was too much for me to bear alone.


@okaycrochet I had insomnia as a child as well, and felt so lonely and miserable at sleepovers when I was the only one left awake. I never woke anyone up or did anything about it - I don't think it ever crossed my mind that I could.


When I was a camp counselor I employed a two punch system to help kids who were obviously having a tougher time without their parents (or sometimes pets) than their peers: 1. Empathize — been there, done that, it totally sucked, but it got better, and you'll feel better too; 2. Discract — have you ever heard my chicken impression? What animals can you imitate? I wonder what we're having for dinner! Here, have some candy, kid.

That always worked. Homesickness is a form of grief, no doubt in my mind — I happen to be an expert griever, so I knew distraction was key. The other counselors wanted to dwell on the empathize part, make the kid talk it out at length, beyond just assessing what the actual problem was. WRONG. SO wrong. Tell a fart joke and then get back to playing soccer! Everyone will be much happier!

Also our camp didn't give kids the option of calling their parents unless they were physically sick, so they had to stick to sending letters, which none of them ever did INCLUDING the homesickiest ones. Nobody ever went home, and for the most part it was fine. And I say this as one of the homesickiest ones ever — I had psychosomatic poison ivy one year because I missed my cousin so bad. SO.



One of the things the parents of the campers at the camp I worked at were encouraged to do is write a card for their child everyday of camp. They'd give the cards to the counselors and we would hand them out before bedtime.

One of the techniques I used to distract from homesickness was to try to give the camper a goal for their time at camp. Like I mentioned above one of my campers was homesick and afraid of water so I challenged him to go down the water slide by the last day of camp. It kept him focused on something other than missing home.

Emma Peel

@ikkepagrasset Yep! Let them talk it out for a couple of minutes, then redirect to something -- preferably something active.


@Weasley I love that idea — mail time was a big deal at my camp, but some kids just didn't get anything ever, and I noticed that they were usually the ones who had a harder time dealing with being apart from their families. I also really like the idea of setting a goal for camp, and if I ever have the chance to be a counselor again (BEST JOB EVER) I'll have to try that out!

@Emma Peel Totally agree! Physical activity and a little well placed absurdity can generally solve any problem, but freaking out and dwelling generally doesn't solve anything. That's a lesson I'm still trying to apply to my own life as a quasi-adult!

Daisy Razor

Aw, man. I have an anxiety disorder, so anywhere unfamiliar sent me into panic mode. I was miserable all through every class trip and away camp I went to, to the point where I can still feel the anxiety when I look back on even the good memories.

But when I got to college and promptly freaked the fuck out, my mother took me by the shoulders and said, "If we don't leave now, we'll just be prolonging the agony. It's going to suck. But then it will get better." And it took me all of three days to get over my homesickness.

So I don't know, maybe all of the miserable bullshit of my youth was worth it? I would still give anything for my parents to have come and gotten me just once though.

young preeezy

Who remembers 'Ira Sleeps Over?' Prepped me for my first ever sleepover.

Twist at the end-- you think he's going to cave in and go back home, (which is next door) but he DOESN'T--- he goes home, grabs his teddy bear, and peaces out back to his friend's place.



@young preeezy I loved that book so much! Side note: my mom and I have an ongoing friendly disagreement because she thinks Ira was a girl.


I never went to summer camp because I grew up in the middle of woods. But! I also had parents who would rather leave behind an arm than a child, and knowing they would always come get me if I needed them has helped me through a lot. (Including adult life.)

I am having so many feelings about parents right now, sniffle.


@SarahP For me, it was definitely knowing that they would come get me if I asked that helped me. Not once did my parents ever refuse to come get me.

Girls get cruel at sleepovers, sometimes. It's awful when you are the one they decide to make the odd girl out.

BUT - There were times they took me home and I later regretted my decision. In those cases, they would not take me back to whatever I requested to leave. This forced me to live with my decision so the next time I would really consider hard if missing everything would be worse than staying.


Re: summer camps, allow me to plug Moonrise Kingdom! Because that movie is the best.


@Emby: Is it full of whimsy and childlike innocence? It looks like it's full of whimsy and childlike innocence (not to mention child actors) which I find off-putting. And yet I've enjoyed a Wes Anderson movie or two in the past, so I'm torn.


@laurel Whimsy? This is a Wes Anderson film, so...yes. Childlike innocence? Going to say no, what with the foster home and the left-handed scissors and etc, etc.


@area@twitter: I see your point re whimsy vis a vis Wes Anderson, yes. Still not convinced it's worth risking two hours of child actors.


@laurel I haven't seen it yet, but I'm willing to bet that Frances McDormand more than makes up for any failings the movie has. (I say that as an ardent Frances McDormand devotee, though.)


@frigwiggin: A definite point in its favor.


The girl is oversexualized and one-third the width of the boy, if that sort of thing bothers you. Also her father picks a stranger to be his heir over her. Also it ain't got no moral, which can have the effect of leaving Americans feeling empty.


I'm a veteran of many summer camps, some of the more traditional outdoorsy variety and some of the nerdball academic variety, and I don't really understand calling your parents from camp. None of the camps I ever went to allowed campers access to a phone. One summer I had the stomach flu and spent 3 days in the infirmary puking my guts out and wasn't allowed to call my parents (though my mom told me later they had called her and told her I had an upset stomach). Is this a modern thing?

That said, if my daughter called and wanted me to pick her up, my answer would be the same as almost all of the comments: it depends. I always remember being horribly homesick the first night of camp, so I'm glad going home wasn't an option, and I'd want my daughter to stick it out for at least a night or two to get over that hump (she's 7, so this is purely hypothetical). But if she felt like other campers were being mean to her and the camp wasn't doing anything about it, I'd be there in a heartbeat (and be demanding a refund from the camp).

I hope I develop the sixth sense my mom had about these things. She would always encourage me to stick things out, and given my natural shyness and propensity for homesickness and other types of loneliness, it was always the right advice. On the other hand, my sister called from a couple of slumber parties when she was growing up and no matter what time it was my mom got in the car so quickly to pick her up that once she got to the party and realized she had on a summer nightgown and no underpants, so she put one of my brother's soccer uniform shirts that was in her car on over her night gown (which really didn't address the underpants issue, but maybe served as a distraction?). And that was always the right decision because my cheerleader sister had crappy mean girl friends, and I don't even want to know what happened to make the embarrassment of leaving early worth it to her. (Oddly enough, my sister disliked going to camp and I disliked going to slumber parties, thought that wasn't much of an issue since I was rarely invited, see above re nerdball.)

Emma Peel

@finguns Former camp counselor, all of this is great. (But our kids aren't allowed to call home either. IT DOESN'T HELP, guys.)


Ugh. I always had a great time at camp (minor homesickness the first year), but whenever I think back on it, the first memory is when my Dad was 4 HOURS LATE to pick me up (camp was 2 hours from my house...). He claims he was early, so stopped at a nearby bar and just met some 'great people' that he 'got caught up talking to.' For 6 hours. Instead of picking up his now-crying 9 year old daughter. The counselors weren't allowed to leave for their weekend off between camps until the last camper got picked up, so they were all pissed and GLARING at me as their plans for their first day off in 3 weeks evaporated.

Strangely enough, Dad and I do not have the best relationship. It's a mystery!




That's the kind of thing that we refer to internally as "therapy gold."


@bitzy Well, you did inherit his ability to spend 6 hours in a bar, so there's *some* common ground there, right?


@Brunhilde Yes! And sometimes even for the specific purpose of avoiding family members, so we certainly have that in common!


Homesickness can be awful, but I maintain that people are only homesick when they're unhappy. It's always caused by/intertwined with something else.


@rosielo YES. I am badly, badly prone to homesickness and have been for as long as I can remember. But it really only pops up when I'm sad or lonely; if I'm happy, I'm fine. As I've gotten older, it's gotten easier to pick apart my feelings to see what the actual issue is. I'm actually quite homesick right now and have been for a while, but I know that I don't really want to be HOME (home is boring! I wanted to leave!), I just want to be not-here.

It's easier to take if I know what the real issue is, really.


@rosielo YES. I don't remember ever getting homesick before my sophomore year of college, when I also had my first (self-diagnosed) episode of mild depression. And I went to summer camp several times in my middle school/high school years.

@daisicles You put it perfectly: "I just want to be not-here." When I look at it, that is exactly what almost all of my experiences with homesickness have boiled down to. (The one exception--I missed my mom so much during parts of that sophomore year that I bawled when my parents picked me up at the airport, and I am not a crier, at least, not in front of other people.)

Porn Peddler

The second year I went to sleepaway camp I had a total freakout and demanded to go home within a week. I don't think I was homesick as much as I hated being around aggressively happy, social, enthusiastic people all the time.


I went to girl scout camp (Camp Daisy Hindman, anyone?) and I seem to remember the vast majority of the time being spent cleaning and singing. There was a system for determining what chore you did after a meal and when you finished it was out onto the deck for at least an hour of crooning "One Tin Soldier." I'm sure there were lovely times on horseback and canoeing too... but damned if I can remember anything except every single verse to "Sr. Don Gato." I did love it though, and was only anxious to go home by the time everyone else's parents had picked them up. I was the last one... every single year. I suspect my parents cruised around in the countryside smoking a joint until the last possible second of the 2:00-3:00 pick up window.


@hoo:ha At my Girl Scout camp (Camp Potomac Woods), we sang the Titanic song and the Junior Birdman song ad nauseum, but I don't remember any cleaning. I do remember the gigantic wood spiders in the top corners of our tents, though. *tiny screams*


@Bittersweet Nice! Nothing like looming arachnids for a good night's sleep!


@hoo:ha The counselors insisted they were harmless, but no one was fooled, especially after one girl got bitten on the cheek and half of her face swelled up.

(Spiders, whhyyyyyyy...)


Can I be the first jerk to say I don't get homesick? Well, maybe I did once or twice at camp as a kid, but that was mainly because my cousin was always getting injured and leaving me there alone. But ever since then, leaving is no problem for me.

I've always been like that. My mom says when she dropped me off at pre-school for the first time, all the other kids were crying and clinging to their parents. I went off to play and was basically like, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Mom!" (Her words.)


@meetapossum I'll be the second jerk, because I grew up with and still have (I'm 22!) overbearingly overprotective parents that any time I got to be away from them for more than a full day was the best and rarest present ever.


@meetapossum I don't know if it's jerky! I don't think I've ever felt homesick really. Which is kind of weird because I'm not all that great in new social settings, I'm very shy and need to be brought out of my shell. So you'd think that things like camp and going to university would be tough for me in terms of socializing!

I think it would be different if I were living in a different country for months on end. The farthest I've lived away was Montreal and I guess that just wasn't far enough for me to feel that I couldn't access my family if I needed to.

Emma Peel

@cosmia Third jerk. The only place I've ever been homesick for is... camp, after I went home. I was the only kid at the first sleepover in kindergarten who didn't want to call home to say goodnight.


@Emma Peel oh yeah! when I would leave school for long weekend type things (thanksgiving etc) I would feel sad to be leaving and then get super excited to be returning. I think that's more that I felt like I was missing out on fun (which I hate) though!


@redheaded&crazie "Missing out on fun" is the main reason I dislike going to visit my parents. It's pretty lame, since I usually have fun when I'm there, but I'm aware I'm one of those people who wants to be involved with everything all the time.


@meetapossum Not jerky at all! My daughter was like this when she was young, and I (rather naively) considered it a triumph of parenting that we had given her the skills to be comfortable in and inquisitive about new situations and environments. When I got pregnant, it was one of the things I most wanted for her. (I still think it's a great gift to be able to navigate new situations like that, but I now realize it had more to do with my daughter's innate personality than any "skills" we had taught her.)


@meetapossum It's definitely an issue in its own right that I am trying to be more level-headed about. It's not possible to be included in all the things, all the time, and trying to achieve that is just doomed to fail. And also probably annoying to the people who have to socialize with me. :P


@finguns My mom jokes that she raised me to be independent, but she didn't realize that meant independent from her.

I mean, I know my parents are always there for me when I need them, and I have asked for their help in the past. But their insistence that I do things on my own ("No, YOU go ask the shop-person for help", "No, you WILL stay at camp") helped me build a lot of confidence in myself. Unfortunately for them, I guess, it also means I'm completely willing to say "See ya!" when given the opportunity to move away to another state/country/whatever.


@redheaded&crazie Ha! I've had friends call me out on it, so that helps keep my behavior in check (a little).


Is summer camp largely an East Coast or Great Lakes regional phenomenon? I grew up in So Cali and none of us seemed to go to sleepaway camps, but my people are outdoorsy, so.


@laurel I'm from CA too and I went to some athletic summer camps but not the traditional sleepaway thing, except in 6th grade. I sort of assumed that was a requisite for all California 6th graders? Your class didn't go stay somewhere for a week? We did and I remember thinking how cool and mature our counselors were, until I got to high school and they were recruiting juniors and seniors to go work at the same camp! If only I'd known they were only 5 years older! (Then again, when I was an adjunct in grad school I was only 5 years older than my undergrads, so. Way of the world, I guess.)


@iknowright: Nope, but I played AYSO soccer during the school year, so maybe I had some sort of exemption?

I've always thought it was crazy that they let HS students look after little kids. Who worse?!


I grew up in LA and went to sleep away camp... granted it was in Jackson Hole, WY on a ranch and clearly I was a spoiled asshole. (Hot damn how I love/d that camp)


I am really big on camp. Loved it, would love for my child to go there, too bad that it can cost as much as private school, because I would definitely want him at a good one, with lots and lots of adults who are good at kids, and minimal Lord of the Flies action.

My first year I was 8, and it was for a month. My mother has admitted but then rescinded that she sent me that long because the shorter session was full. I was the youngest camper there.

At the ten-day mark I got terribly homesick, and wrote a miserable letter home. It didn't even occur to me to tell a counselor how awful I felt. I don't think I knew that going home could happen.

I got over it, I had a pretty good time, for being too small to do most of the camp things. I wanted to go back. I recalled the experience frequently thereafter as a time when I had toughed something out. It was valuable. But if my parents had gotten my letter and gotten in the car, instead if sending a box of cookies that was confiscated, it would have done a lot for my relationship with them. What a learned was basically, "I can do it. And I'll have to, because my parents won't save me."

But I did totally get over it, and it's good to know that kids can. And I would not send my kid with a blanket "if you don't like it call and I'll come get you" promise.

Emma Peel

NO, PARENTS, DON'T DO THIS. I've been a camp counselor for years and years and I hate it when parents immediately swoop in to scoop up homesick kids. There are definitely some circumstances where it's best for everyone for the kid just to go home (especially among the younger ones), but I've seen far more kids who were upset for awhile, got over it and had a great time than kids who were actually paralyzed by homesickness.

A huge part of summer camp is building self-confidence. If parents rush to the rescue the first time a kid is unhappy, that sends a message that they can't do this. I think many kids don't try again.

I also agree with those saying upthread that homesickness usually has other components. Plain ol' traditional outdoorsy summer camp just might not be for a specific kid. But chalking that up to homesickness means they're less likely to try band camp or drama camp or language camp or writing camp or whatever might be more to their taste, because they "don't like being away from home."

There are some cases where the kids are just too miserable and have to go home. But I've heard too many kids say "I was homesick for awhile this morning, but I did this and this and this fun thing" by the second week to think that fixing homesickness is always the best policy.

My camp also doesn't allow kids to have cell phones or call home, which I think makes a big difference. If you are forced to be in the moment, you're less likely to dwell. You have to go to the camp director if you want to call home due to homesickness, and at that point we're usually already in conversations about booking a flight out (which is pretty rare, as it's generally discouraged).

Emma Peel

@Emma Peel (As I said, I don't get homesick, which makes it easier to be a "tough-it-out" type. But I've seen toughing it out work wonders so many times.)


@Emma Peel

I completely agree with you. I also think it's better to experience those feelings as a child rather than being an adult and feeling homesick for the first time. I had an internship where a person in their twenties flipped from being homesick. It was not endearing or comfortable for anyone involved.


@Emma Peel I was picked up at camp one year. I'd been to sleepaway camp twice before that year (and went another, like, three times after). But there was a lot of other difficult stuff going on in my life and I basically spent three days straight crying. I think it was the right thing at the time and didn't hinder my ability/desire to live away from my family.


@Emma Peel

I got picked up from camp as a kid once, based on homesickness (and also my first period, which is just...the cruelest twist of fate). And then I subsequently moved across the country to a city in a state where I knew no one for college, and then moved back across the country to another city in another state where I knew no one for law school, and I thrived in both. Yes, by that point I was an adult, but that's still a relatively scary situation.

I'm just saying, sometimes a kid just needs to leave camp. And it doesn't mean that they're not going to learn confidence or grow up to be independent or that parents are doing the wrong thing. It just means that, at that point, camp isn't the right thing for that kid. And I will forever be grateful that my mother told the camp director to shove it when he told her kids weren't allowed to leave early and came and picked me up. Because seriously, dude? You do not know me.


Generally, I had no problems at camp, but once my brother and I were supposed to spend two weeks with our (maternal) grandparents three hours away, and halfway through we snuck a phone call in to our mom, asking her to let us come home. She came down and picked us up a week early, and she even covered for us, and told her parents it was because she was missing us too much. My mom is one stand up lady.

I think for sleep-aways, always having at least one buddy there you knew beforehand can really help put homesickness into perspective, like, is it because you're lonely, or because it is objectively not good?


I never went to camp and I never even went to sleepovers, something I have since learned was due to my mother's well-founded paranoia, but it's not exactly like I wanted to go, either. I was an extremely awkward, shy kid who got bullied mercilessly at the things I was forced to go to (school), never mind the optional things. So I don't have any experiences to share, but I also have no regrets about that.

As it turns out, the first time I was away from home overnight and not with family was when I was 17, on the band trip to DC/Baltimore/Philly, and I was not the least bit homesick. I think I had enough positive social interactions and maturity under my belt by that point and was able to take the experience in the spirit it was intended, something I don't think would have happened any earlier if I'd been made to go to camp or something like that; it needed to run its course with me. And I had a genuinely great time.


@camanda yeah, i think camp is overrated as a tool for building independence. (i never felt bad about the way that i looked until i went to summer camp, for example.) what's important, imho, is giving kids a secure and supportive environment until they are mature enough to understand and like themselves for who they are. sometimes being surrounded by other kids/teenagers (because most counselors are just teenagers) is not the way to do that!


@blahstudent this is especially true if you are kind of a weird kid.


@blahstudent Exactly. Likewise, I lived at home during college, and don't regret that, either. It's just not for me, or for a lot of other people.

fondue with cheddar

I never went to summer camp as a kid, but I did get in trouble when I moved into my college dorm (which was in the next town) and never came home to visit.


Also never been homesick. I really don't know for sure, but I feel its a combination of my natural disposition and the way my mother treated me when I was very young. No attachment parenting there.

We lived in the middle of nowhere, and I was allowed to leave the house at any time and stay away as long as I liked(but never at the expense of my chores). In the summer I preferred to sleep outside, by default alone. I was never afraid of the dark either.

In contrast my mom always promised to come get me, no matter what. But she phrased it as "If something goes wrong, you can call me at ANY TIME and I will come get you." I always interpreted that to mean that if things went deeper than I could handle; bullies, bad attention from adults, then she was my cavalry.

My parents also worked me hard at home, so time away was PRECIOUS. Going home would have meant doing endless laundry, and endless barn chores, and fixing endless fencing. I was the only student at my college that whined about having summer break.

I agree usually that coddling kids is bad, BUT what if your kid is demanding/begging to come home for a very good reason, and using homesickness as an excuse in front of adults they have no reason to trust? I never would have had to justify my request to come home to my mom, and I think that made me feel that she trusted me, rather than the other way round.


All I wanted was to go to sleepaway camp as a kid. I would read only novels about kids at camp in the summer and as soon as I learned how to work the internet I would search the different kinds of camps I could go to... My mom wouldn't let me because she didn't want me to get molested.

This is also why I couldn't go to Mexico with my best friend to visit with her family (to be more specific I was "too blonde").

Surprisingly enough I also really wanted to go to boarding school. I just really wanted out it seems.


Just the other day I was at the gym (freak occurence) and I was looking at listings for the kids' summer camp they do -- $255 for a week (and each "camp" was only like, 2 hours each afternoon). This led me to look up the Nike camp I went to when I was in high school, which was a week-long, overnight thing. It's like $1,100! And obviously that doesn't include the nice clothes my mom bought me, or the snacks, or the time and cost of driving me there. It's been over a decade since I went but I only sort of now realized how much of an economic burden it must have been for my parents to send me. And I plan on sending the world's most belated thank you note for it.

Related: I went to that camp three times, once in a high-altitude location with a Mean Girl and I got sunburned, didn't make friends, and was totally homesick. The next two years I went to a camp on the beach with 4 of my closest team friends and got a stomachache from laughing so much. I really think it helps kids to go to an unfamiliar location with a handful of people they do know to make the transition easier. I think there's a difference between being homesick but having friends to help you out and being homesick and then having the situation only make you feel worse/more lonely/kind of lame.


I kind of hated summer camp but I liked being away from home so I stuck it out. Then a couple months after I got home my memories of summer camp underwent a complete revision and I really really wanted to go back so I begged and begged my parents to let me go and they did and then once I got back I realized that I still kind of hated it and I had made a mistake. But I stuck it out again because being away from home is still great.
Then the next year I went to nerd summer camp (VAMPY!) and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Lenora Jane

Proposition: the "independence-building" factor of summer camp is really less independence in the sense of "doing things on one's own, being an individual" and more independence in the sense of "being able to deal with a foreign (social and physical) environment without the support you may be used to"? Because obvs we're not alone at summer camp (unless your summer camp does solo woods time/vision questy things! which are cool but make my inner former counselor cry w/anxiety), we are ALWAYS WITH PEOPLE, someone upthread said "there's no space at camp" which is absolutely true. But camp for me was always about: okay, I've been thrown into this world I'm not used to, I don't have all my stuff from home, I can't ask my parents for help, my usual friends aren't here--and I've got to/I get to figure it out from here...

apples and oranges

I got massively homesick when I studied abroad. For a long time. But it got better eventually.

How do I become a camp counselor to live out my summer camp dreams now that I'm too old to be a camper?


Did anybody ever go to "Supercamp" when they were a kid? I ended up going to one in... 8th grade, I believe. I know I was 12 because my dad had to jostle me into going buying a copy of Fallout 2 upon my return. I had a lot of fun there - it was on the UC Colorado Springs campus, and I hadn't yet learned to hate the Springs.

There was one counselor I still remember - tall white guy, bespectacled, built like a running back, with dreads he had woven beads into. He was older (mid-to-late 20's maybe?) and beatific as hell. Ed was his name. Adored him. We'd swim in the Olympic-sized pool, eat at the dorm cafeteria (which was AMAZING having only experienced elementary school cafeteria food - they had real cereal! Fuck!), learn how to speed read, do ropes course stuff. Every night the counselors would put on a show, usually not very accurate approximations of SNL skits of the time (mostly Chris Farley things). Us boys stayed in one wing of the dorm and the girls stayed in another, and we were positively amazed at the fact that our windows overlooked the girl dorms. We couldn't actually see anything, of course, but we were tween boys, it was the thought that mattered. Ed asked us if we had a view, we played coy, it was a game between us.

Ed would serenely mediate the "breakups" that occurred between kids who decided they were in relationships for the week. He rallied the camp to get me to jump off the high dive once, but I balked and said I'd do it another day. I still regret coming down. I was initially bunked with a kid who talked in a very mannered way and claimed his family owned wineries in Napa. He had some sort of breakdown and his parents took him home. It was one of my first lessons that being lonely and awkward is one thing but you can never appear to be desperate.

I didn't get homesick as a kid, but I never though I'd enjoy myself, so I guess I was a normal kid in that respect. I contracted a horrible case of strep at a YMCA camp in the mountains once. For some reason either they didn't tell my parents or they never bothered to drive the 2 hours to bring me back - I spent the majority of the trip camped out in a warm bed in the nurse's cabin, gingerly drinking all her 7-Up and gatorade and watching the Star Wars trilogy on VHS, over and over. Good times.


@Danzig! Man I'm just all full of memories today. Looking back on it, I'm wondering how much of that week Ed spent stoned off his ass.


One time I came home from summer camp because I was "homesick," although I really was just tired of dealing with my insanely homophobic bunkmates who were closing in on my queer-ass closeted self with every passing day. I toughed it out for a week, but I decided to throw in the towel after everyone in my cabin spent the evening discussing the appropriate way to deal with queer people (consensus: death by fire, corrective rape being the humane alternative). The other girls would frequently met up with their boyfriends in the woods at night, and their wholehearted endorsement corrective rape ensured that I never left the cabin after sundown for fear of what those boyfriends might be convinced to do. I knew I was in trouble when I was assigned a "boyfriend" of my very own. My "boyfriend" turned out to be queer too, and I probably should have stuck around for his sake, but I was not up for fighting the good fight at 13. It was a very difficult experience for me and I think a lot of my opinions on queer politics/queer separatism stem from being exposed to such deep homophobia at a relatively young age.

Anyways, I think a lot of discussions of "homesickness" overlook the fact that summer camps can sometimes be nightmarish for minority children/teens. Contrary to popular camp counselor belief, there are plenty of good, mature reasons for a child to want to leave a camp early.


@kitkat88 That sounds horrendous.


Homesickness is so horrible. When I first started experiencing depression, the best way I could describe it was "It feels like homesickness, but you're at home", and the two still are a lot alike to me.

I remember once as a fairly young child (under 10, I think) having my grandparents take me and my siblings on holiday to a caravan park, without our parents. We cried constantly (I remember being taken to the telephone box in the evenings to phone home, and sobbing at the sound of my parents' voices), and ended up going home after only a few days. I am still grateful that we didn't have to stay.


I have two boys, one of whom would dread and throw a fit about the idea of sleep away camp but would love it once he was there. The younger one could go either way about his expectation, but once he was there he'd endure it no matter what. If either one called me and wanted to go home, I would be there as fast as I could. I'm in no way a pushover, but I agree if your damn kid calls and begs to come home you get in the car. Sticking it out be damned- knowing without a doubt that a person will be there for you no matter what is what it's all about.


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