For the first time this summer, my 8-year-old son will be embarking on the journey of a lifetime. He’s going to sleepaway camp for two whole weeks! Truth be told, I’d always assumed he’d go to sleepaway camp someday. I just never thought the day would come so fast and my kid would be begging to go.
But after researching the camp, confirming with my kid that he understood he was going for two weeks, and that backing out was not an option, my husband and I decided to strike while the iron was interested in going to camp. In other words, if he wanted to go we weren’t saying no.
For starters, my husband and I have wonderful childhood memories from our time at sleepaway camp. He remembers the day his team won the color wars. I remember waiting for mail day and can still remember my first dance like it was yesterday. The thing neither of us remembers is missing our parents, or wanting to come home. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have moments of homesickness, or enjoyed every moment of every day at camp, but our overall experience of camp was a blast. That, even though we both got hurt, got bee stings, and got a bit too much sun, we still had fun.
The point is, we both lived! And so did our mothers who may, or may not, have white knuckled their way through summer while hoping we were having fun.
So in telling a group of friends that my firstborn was venturing off to sleepaway camp this summer I was surprised by just how many of them said steadfast, “Nope. My kid’s not going. Not now, not ever.” When I probed a bit deeper, a few moms confessed to thinking their kids weren’t ready for the experience. Knowing if a kid is ready or not to handle time away from home is crucial to a child having a good experience. But just because a child isn’t ready this coming summer, doesn’t mean that child will never be ready.
So I asked about whether their kids could go in the future, particularly if they expressed an interest in sleepaway camp. Still, the answer from some remained a stern no. I couldn’t help but feel sad for those kids. There are so many life skills learned at camp. I know firsthand from going to camp myself. I learned to sail, made costumes out of whatever we had in our bunk, and made friendships that have lasted my lifetime. I slept under the stars, learned camp songs I can still remember today, ate s’mores, did chores, and played sports and games I never would have had the opportunity to play at home.
My camp wasn’t fancy, but it was fun. And I got to be in a safe environment where fun was the agenda of each and every day. There were no screens, phones, cars, or cash. And most importantly, there were no parents!
That, to me, is what camp is all about. No parents! For better or worse, sleepawaycamp provides kids the rare opportunity to be totally independent, where they get to play in nature, make friends, and work through everything from homesickness to sunburns, on their own. The chance to be independent in a society where our kids can’t walk down the street without us hovering is worth the cost of sleepaway camp, in my opinion. And the fact that there’s an ice cream social and a campfire, well, that’s just icing on the cake!
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