How To Deprogram Your Kids After Camp (Enough With The Eye Rolling!)

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Calling Dr. Drew! Or A&E’s Intervention! My daughter just returned to camp and I need help!

For most children, going to day camp or overnight camp is about having the time of their lives. For us parents, it is a bit of a break. But, although I know camp is not a cult or an addiction – unless you consider sleeping in bunk beds, rock climbing and water skiing a cult or addiction – I find that most of the children I know, including my own daughter, need a “deprogramming” after returning from a session at camp.

I have felt that I’ve needed to call in Dr. Drew for a special “intervention” for children who go to camp, thanks to my daughter’s new attitude and her new habit of eye rolling, talking back and overall impatience with me. None of which she had before going to overnight camp.

I realized this last year, for the first time, each day when my daughter arrived home from day camp. There was just something different in her tone of voice, like she was annoyed with me. There was a little bit of an edge and a lot more eye rolling. The first time she rolled her eyes at me, after a day of camp, I said, “Did you just roll your eyes at me? Did you?!” I was torn, because eye rolling is rude yet I felt it was some sort of milestone that I should put in the scrapbook (“Oh, she first rolled her eyes at me at age six! This is a day to remember!”). Still, I nipped that in the bud immediately.

But when my daughter came home after a week of overnight camp this summer, I really realized she needed deprogramming. She now talked about girls who swore and boys. She told me that the letters I left in her bag for her to read each night weren’t “good enough” because some of the other girls also got gifts in their envelopes, like glow-in-the-dark necklaces and stickers (“Give me a break, kid,” I told her).

Now this is from my daughter who had never before asked for  anything. Suddenly, she was walking around saying, “Crap!” when she couldn’t find her shoes and “Crap!” when spilled her drink and “Crap!” when I told her it was bedtime. Now, I’m not sure “Crap” is an actual bad word, but it certainly wasn’t in her vocabulary before she went to camp and now it was “Crap” everything. She obviously picked up that word at camp.

And god-forbid I suggest she take off the “deep-end swimming” badge around her wrist. To her, that was like a platinum bracelet and she was mortified that I actually suggested it. And, again, there was a change to her tone of voice when she talked to me. I noticed impatience. Yes, impatience – with me!

When she tried to teach me a new hand-clapping game she learned at camp and I couldn’t get it right the first three times, she practically huffed (actually she did huff) and said, “You’re doing it wrong.” I was, like, “Yeah, I’m doing it wrong. I’m 37 and haven’t played hand games in more than two decades and they have changed! So lose the attitude and just teach me.” Rolling her eyes, she taught me as if I were a two-year-old, and we finally got it. By that time, she was over playing it with me.

I’m not the only mother who feels their children need a “deprogrammer” after camp. At one pickup from camp, my friend’s son literally jumped on the front of their SUV and told her, “I’m NOT LEAVING. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” He was having such a good time and there were still two weeks left of the last session. Her son is 13 years old.

“He had a major temper tantrum that I haven’t seen since he was four. It was embarrassing for everyone.  We practically had to force him into the car and then he didn’t talk to us for a week. That never happened before,” she told me. “So, yes, our children do change at camp. They are with their friends all day and all night long and they pick up bad habits, like swearing, or they want what their friends have. For our son, his best friend was staying those last two weeks, and he wanted to stay so badly he was crying! And we just wanted him home to spend time with the family.”

Another woman at my gym went to visit her daughter at overnight camp and when she ran up to hug her she could feel her daughter’s bum. “You’re not wearing underwear,” this mother said to her daughter. “Oh, I don’t wear underwear at camp,” her eight-year-old daughter answered – like duh! – as flip as a 16-year-old.

And yet another mother tells me that her daughter has not said “hello” or “hi” since she returned home from overnight camp two weeks ago. “It’s always, ‘What’s up?’ Or, ‘Whaz up?’ I really feel I sent her away as this innocent 10-year-old and now she’s talking like a rapper on MTV or something. I hate hearing, ‘Whaz up?’”

One mother thinks that because parents pay for camps, and generally speaking, counselors are young, they let our children get away with things that we would never allow them to get away with at home (which, obviously, is part of the appeal of camp for children). Almost all mothers agree that their daughters come back acting at least five years older than their age, and their sons come back acting at least three years tougher than their age.

And then, of course, is just getting our children back into the regular, mundane house rules. No, you can’t stay up past nine; I don’t care what you did at camp. No, you can’t have seconds of ice cream; I don’t care what you did at camp. Yes, you have to wear underwear; I don’t care what you did at camp.

However, while I, and many parents, may want a week of deprogramming for our kids when they return, I don’t want a full-on detox, either. My daughter has come back more confident and free-spirited. She made a lot of new friends and had an all around fantastic time. Still, I could do without the eye rolling, and the impatient, “I already told you that,” when I ask her a question.

Dr. Drew, are you out there?

(Photo: Hemera)