Whitney is away at camp for 2.5 weeks, It’s her second year going, and she was ecstatic when I dropped her off. For me, the reassurance of knowing she’s somewhere familiar (myself, my mother, and grandmother all attended the same camp) makes it so much easier not to miss her constantly.
I always enjoy hearing reactions when I’m out and about and people hear she has left town, even the state, to truly go away and experience something totally different, on her own. One woman last week looked at me in such shock that I thought she might think summer camp at age ten was grounds to call DSS on me. I pleasantly smiled, brushed off her comments, and thought to myself, “Oh you poor woman. You simply have NO idea.” As soon as I hear a negative comment, it’s usually countered with something upbeat. Today at work, a woman glazed over, and got the look on her face that told me she knows camp. “Oh…” she gushed, “Camp. I went when I was little. Best times of my life.”
Undoubtedly, one of the top reasons camp is so wonderful is the opportunity to completely disconnect from technology. Most camps, including the one where my daughter goes, don’t allow any sort of media or devices at all. I wish we could all be so lucky and totally disconnect for an extended period of time. There is something to be said for embracing a simpler way of life, even if only temporarily. I suppose there are exceptions. I read an editorial in our local paper this past week by a woman who was watching her daughter online at camp on a webcam they had rigged up by the waterfront (I personally can’t think of anything more ridiculous than this!).
Without a doubt, the letters from camp, and the letters siblings write are priceless. As a mother, having your heart skip a beat when there’s a letter in the mailbox is a feeling that can’t be duplicated. As with last year, the letters from my daughter have been few and far between. I am guessing that she is having a good time, or else I would probably be getting an earful. On the other hand, my six year-old misses her sister terribly, and sent her this darling letter the other day:
I have a file from last summer with the (few!) letters Whitney sent us and will add to it each year. My sister wrote home telling my parents camp was the worst place she’d ever been and vowed to be packed up seven days before the session ended. (That being said, as an adult, she will likely tell you she is glad she went!) My husband wrote home at age 9 and told his parents the counselor had a Playboy in the cabin (highly questionable!). These are priceless mementos that will spark humorous conversations for years to come.
The emotional growth that takes place for both parent and child through an extended absence is overwhelmingly positive. It is an incredible exercise as a parent to let go of your child and let them be in a place without you. I personally think that we parents give ourselves way too much credit. Our kids can and will thrive without us, and letting them have that chance is a great gift we can offer them. Last year, Whitney left as one child and came home as a totally new one. I am hoping this year will be the same. I love seeing the level of confidence and independence that camp can foster, as well as a noticeable improvement in being more helpful and thoughtful at home.
Some of my best life learning experiences took place at camp. Back then, we went for seven weeks, starting at age nine. I remember my third summer well, after my parents left from the visiting weekend. My spirits were low, and readjusting back into camp life within minutes of their departure seemed impossible. I sat on the swimming beach with a lump in my throat. A few minutes later, another girl sat beside me, clearly wallowing in her sadness as well. We chatted briefly, and agreed to swim together. I barely knew her as she was thirteen and I was eleven, so we were in separate units. We swam together for over an hour, and we had a ball. We showed off our dives and any silly jump we could think of. After that day, I remember distinctly understanding that I had it in me to lift someone else’s spirits. I understood it was acceptable to show emotional vulnerability and look for support from others, and I felt proud of myself. Not having my parents there allowed me to work a tough situation out for myself, and I was better for it.
For sure, there are some children who just never mesh with the camp experience for whatever reason. I would recommend giving it two tries, as I know a lot of people who struggled that first summer away but then thrived after that. I know of so many wonderful camps at varying price points and length, so if you’re reading this and thinking about it, I recommend starting with the ACA website: http://www.acacamps.org/ This provides a directory of all accredited camps, where you can be sure to find a reputable program. Many YMCA camps are great too. My husband attended one in N.H. for many years, and absolutely loved it. I’ve provided a short list below of camps I know which are well thought of.
It’s worth considering, even if you’re mildly curious. A happy camper is a beautiful thing for the entire family!
Brooke’s Brief Camp List ~ I know there are many others…
Camp Arcadia (Maine) http://camparcadia.com/
Camp Wyonegonic (Maine) http://wyonegonic.com/
Camp Wohelo (Maine) http://www.wohelo.com
Camp Walden (Maine) http://campwalden.com/
Camp Wawenock (Maine) http://campwawenock.com/
YMCA Camp Huckins (New Hampshire) http://www.camphuckins.com/
Camp Aloha (Vermont) http://blog.alohafoundation.org/
Camp Kiniya (Vermont) http://campdudley.org/camp-dudley-at-kiniya/
Alford Lake (Maine) http://www.alfordlakecamp.com/
Camp Winona (Maine) http://winonacamps.com/
Camp O-AT-KA (Maine) http://www.campoatka.com/
Camp Agawam (Maine) http://www.campagawam.org/
Camp Timanous (Maine) http://www.camptimanous.com/
Camp Lanakila (Vermont) http://blog.alohafoundation.org/
Chewonki (Maine) http://www.chewonki.org/
Camp Dudley (Vermont) http://campdudley.org/
YMCA Camp Coniston (New Hampshire) http://coniston.org/