A couple days ago I was on the phone when another call came in. It was from the town where my kids are at camp – Jake for four weeks, Fiona for six. My heart jumped into my throat. Who was hurt? That was the only reason I could think of that camp would call.
I barked at the person I was talking to that I had to go (she was still talking when I switched over). I anxiously said “Hello?” and a tiny, soft, high voice said “Mommy, it’s Fiona. I miss you.”
Turns out she’d been so homesick that day that she’d been crying. It had been three weeks exactly since I’d heard her voice, and she sounded so sad. So different from the girl who’d pretty much abandoned me at camp drop-off because she was so excited to be there, and didn’t want to wait another minute to go find her cabinmates.
I felt terrible. I talked to her for about fifteen minutes, asking her all sorts of questions about what she was doing. She was obviously doing a lot and having a great time, but she missed us so much! I reminded her several times that visiting day was in just a few days. Jake wanted us to bring him Tootsie Rolls – I asked Fiona if she wanted anything.
“Pictures of you guys.”
Just grab my heart and rip it out, why don’t you?
She wasn’t asking to come home, at least (and a good thing too, because I wouldn’t have done it). I asked her if six weeks was too long, and she hesitated. “Well, it’s OK that I’m a little homesick.” I get it, she’s having a blast and wants to be there, but three weeks is a long time for a nine-year-old not to talk to her parents.
This didn’t happen last year. What had changed?
But then I remembered that it had happened last year, but in a different way – and I’d totally missed it. We’d arranged to call Jake on his birthday last summer, and we didn’t want to talk to Jake but not Fiona, so she was on the call too. And she was miserable. She cried a little during the call. But she had spent the night before with the nurse throwing up, so I hadn’t attributed the crying to being homesick, just sick. I mean, when you’re throwing up you want your mom. So of course that phone call was disastrous. When we saw her a week later at visiting day she was fine, and at the end of camp she said she wanted to go for even longer than six weeks next time!
When I think of Fiona at camp, I like to think of her like this:
That’s from a couple weeks ago. She’s smiling in most of her other camp pictures too. The only ones where she’s not smiling, she doesn’t know there’s a camera on her and she’s totally into whatever she’s doing. She’s obviously having fun at camp. She wants to be there. But I think next year, if she goes for six weeks again, we’ll have to schedule a call for the half-way mark. That seems to be when she gets a bit overwhelmed and loses it a little.
And I give her huge props for being able to last that long. I went on a month-long trip when I was seventeen and I was ridiculously homesick!
Hopefully it was just a blip, a bad day. She sounded much better by the end of the call. I’ll get to see for myself in just a couple of days.
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