Others also note that being miserable at summer camp is not a sign that someone's going to be meek or fearful as an adult. Ryan K. Croft, 29, of Arlington, Va., was once a "mama's boy" who cried himself to sleep at camp. But he grew up to found an international adventure travel company, leading more than 100 group trips to 20 countries on four continents.
"My family likes to say I was a late bloomer and just needed more time than others to find my way," he said. "I personally just think it's coincidental or irony at its finest."
Sometimes the problem with sleepaway camp was a simple mismatch. One woman was sent to a Bible camp even though her family never went to church. Jason Fischbach, 23, was sent to a Jewish camp in New York, but "I didn't know the prayers. I couldn't tell the same stories as other kids, and I didn't fit in at all. I was bullied for being different."
Some kids hated camp at first but over the course of several summers grew to like it. Kevin Strauss, 43, of Leesburg, Va., cried all the time at his first camp, at age 7. Other kids made fun of him, and he even got into a fight. "I can still remember it 36 years later," he says. His second time away, he got poison ivy. "I spent a lot of time at the infirmary because it felt like someone was there to take care of you, kind of like your mom," he said.
But his third time, as a sixth-grader, was "fantastic," recalled Strauss, founder of a website called FamilyeJournal.com. As an adult, Strauss says, he's loved wilderness expeditions, and even though he hated the camp pool, he's become an Ironman athlete who goes "swimming in the ocean for miles."