Before we took our daughter to camp, my wife and I talked to her about some of the “norms” of going to camp in the USA. She had been to camp outside of the US but this is different.
Some of this stuff was even news to me.
On her check list she was asked to bring cards with envelopes and stamps. So we went ahead and did what the check list said to do.
The idea is, kids will write to their parents to let them know what they are doing, if they are having fun, and (hopefully) that they miss us…..a little bit.
Because we are their parents.
We love our kids.
Always. And unconditionally.
But I think to be honest, the expectations of letter writing is imposing, stressful, and unfair to some kids.
The idea itself is nice, but with the idea comes a sort of expectation not only from the parent’s view, and the counselor’s view, but also the camper’s view.
I think about kids who are abused by their parents and go to camp. How do they feel when they feel they need to write letters to their abusers?
Are they excited to return to this life?
Maybe these kids don’t go to camp?
At camp children who are in their pre-teen phase are probably experimenting…maybe they will have their first peck on the cheek, or if they are older, they may get slobbered on.
Camp is a serious thing.
How many times do we hear parents talk about their “first crush” or “when I knew I was gay” or “when I had a crush on my counselor” when they were at camp?
A lot goes on during camp and I think parents can forget that it is a very intense and often-times nerve-wracking experience.
When we drove our daughter to camp, helped her make her bed, and walked out of the cabin with her, she looked at us and said “you are not gone yet?”
There were mixed feelings. She loves us and yet she needs her independence.
There were mixed feelings for us too. We love her, and we also love our quiet time at home.
But here is the thing. We would LOVE to get a letter from her and she has almost been gone for a week.
We wrote her two letters already and secretly, I think I will cry inside if she never writes.
But she may not.
And that is ok.
Because for adoptees it is not just about being at camp, being around new people, and being away for two weeks, they also get to deal with the knowledge that you are an adoptee who may or may not have biological siblings with them.
Adoption is Complicated….even when kids are going off to camp.
I don’t know what conversations she has with her new friends at camp.
Will she bring up her adoption?
Will there be other adoptees that she can talk to about her adoption?
Will it bring up emotions?
Will she miss being with us…or long for her birth family during this time?
Adoption and going to camp can be confusing.
And add the layer of feeling that they need to write to us. We made sure to tell her that writing us is not a requirement. But that does not remove the feeling of expectation.
So for me, I’ve come to terms with the fact that she may not write to us.
Of course I’d love for her to. But I don’t want her to feel obligated.
Before we left, we reminded her that she could write to her birth family during this time too.
In my heart, I definitely felt sad and don’t really know how I would react if she wrote to them and not us. I think I would be jealous.
I have one more week to figure out how to respond to a possible “non-letter writing-camp-experience”. And I KNOW I can’t make her feel bad about it.
Is letter writing during camp about appreciating what we adoptive parents have done for our adopted kids? Sending them to camp can be pricey.
Is letter writing during camp about their experience or is it more about us hoping they miss us. You know, because we miss them.
I don’t have answer to these question.
I just have more questions for each question.
So I sit in solidarity with my fellow Adoptive Parents who may feel the way I do.
I sit with you knowing and hoping that our love for them is being communicated to them but that they are not feeling like they “owe” us anything.
I sit with you knowing that it is OK for them not to write to us…..and not have to have a reason for not writing us.
Because in the adoption world, there are so many layers.…and adoption is complicated, messy, confusing, incomprehensible, a challenge, loving, different, testy, fierce, loss, gain, death, life, and a chance to do things differently!