Why I Send My Kids to Summer Camp

Let me just get this off my chest. I am not a camper. My family did not camp. The couple of camping experiences I had were rainy. Very. Rainy.

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The church and girl guide camps I went to didn’t endear me either. I am not particularly fond of the great outdoors. I hate playing games of any kind. I got homesick.

Perhaps I gave up too soon. So why then, did I encourage my kids to go to summer camp?

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1. Strangely, I still like the idea of camp. Stories taking place at camp and boarding schools were some of my favourites. Maybe the idea of no parents was intriguing. I also noticed that many kids who went away to camp and liked it, were campers for life. Somewhere there was a grain of truth to camp being a good thing and I wanted to find it for my kids.

2. Camp is very different from when I went to camp, many eons ago. Adventure awaits, not crafts. Well there are crafts for those who want them but when I went, it seemed to this non-crafty person, a main feature. As mentioned, I am not outdoorsy partly due to the fact I am allergic to trees, grass, dust, animals, etc. That pretty much makes up a lot of the outdoors. Also as previously stated, NOT a gamer.
But today’s camp? Adventures to test your mettle await. It might scare you silly but who cares? Rock climbing walls, high ropes, and all kinds of other challenging things for kids to try that they don’t necessarily get to do at home. Maybe that’s what I was looking for as a kid. I wanted to prove myself. Today’s campers get to do that if they so choose. (And maybe I just went to the wrong camps!)

3. Kids learn to get along. There is always someone in the cabin who rubs you the wrong way. It’s Murphy’s Law. The cabins are tight quarters so you learn very quickly, to put up with them or work it out. This is a skill that our kids will take with them into adulthood and use many times. More adults should go to camp and learn this skill.

4. Kids learn independence. My kids suddenly learned skills they didn’t (and I didn’t) know they could do like wash dishes! They had to learn to keep track of their stuff and pack it all up to go home. They learned that they could work through homesickness and have a feeling of pride that they made it to the end of the week. This in turn, lets them know they have what it takes to endure, and persevere.

5. Even though I don’t like the outdoors all that much, I want my kids to. Camp provides them with a beautiful setting and lets them see and appreciate nature and God’s creation. They learn to respect it and how to live in it. They see the beauty and the danger. It creates a sense of wonder and awe, even if it’s momentary.

6. In today’s tech age, camp provides a reprieve from it all; Instragram, Facebook, Twitter and whatever else kids are on these days. Camp pries the phone from their fingers and puts it in Time Out. They get the chance to look up, breathe and actually see their surroundings. They have to talk to someone face-to-face at camp. They get to laugh and clown around with other kids, without a phone in their hand to take a selfie.

7. Camp gives kids a chance to discover their own personality. Without parental eyes looking over their shoulders, they have a chance to loosen up and try new things and test out behaviours. (Sorry counsellors!)

8. Finally camp opens up a new world. They meet new people from different cities. They learn about their new friends’ worlds. They try new things and foods. They learn about leadership and take away a few lessons of their own. We’ve had many discussions about what they like in a leader and what they don’t. What they might emulate when they are in a leadership position. Camp shows them that there is a bigger world out there and endless possibilities.

So that’s why I send my kids to camp. I want them to be campers. Call me crazy. That being said, we chose the camp our kids go to very carefully. As parents we are trusting our children into the care of these people. You want to make sure they are going to be safe because stuff happens. It’s a good idea to talk to people who went to the camp as campers or their parents. I was familiar with the camp as it was near a cottage we rent.

It’s also a good idea to review with your kids about what is appropriate and what is not. Secrets are not okay. Hopefully, they vet the workers but why not be preventative? Some things to think about if you are considering sending your kids to camp.  We all want it to be a positive experience, right?

I prayed hard before and while they were at camp.  They may not be an arm’s length away from me but they are never out of their Father’s hands.

Finally, I do want to thank all the people who volunteer and work at camps. This is a calling and I, for one, am thankful for those who are called because I am not. The cabin leaders and other volunteers can make a difference in a life.  You have much influence.  So thank you.

Until next year…

 

What a Pair of Rain Boots Taught Me

I sorted clothing in piles.  Towels, swimsuits, T-shirts, shorts, a pair of jeans all sat on the floor.  He read the list back to me and we double-checked it.  Check, check and double-check!  Everything accounted for but the boots.  I washed the mud off them and wiped them dry and set them in the sun.

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Packing for camp calls for organization!  My oldest child was headed off to overnight camp for the first time ever and I wanted to make sure that he had all the essentials.  However my tendency to under-pack hit high gear as the piles grew on our floor.  Uneasiness gripped me.  I hate overpacking. Boots?  Really?  The likelihood of him actually putting them on was nil unless he was forced.  It’s been as dry as a bone outside too.

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What to do, what to do?  Adding extra weight to the bag exasperated me.  He didn’t need the rain boots.  I asked my son.  He didn’t want the boots.  I stated my argument to my husband.  He showed me where the boots could fit quite nicely in the bag.  It was under-packer vs. over-packer (Mark).  I made some arguments in favour of leaving the boots.  My husband relented.  “Don’t send the boots then.”  Agreement!  The boots stayed home.

As we walked the grounds after arriving at camp, I noticed mud.  The fields were a bit spongy.  It dawned on me that boots would have been a good idea.  I apologized to my son.  He was okay with it.  He’d rather get muddy and wear crocs.  I cringed inwardly.  My son was a mud magnet.  Water too.  He was a real life version of the book, Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch.  It seemed to jump on him.  His brother would be clean but my oldest would be sopping and filthy.  I told myself as long as it didn’t rain it might be okay.

I’ve been glued to the forecast this week. They didn’t get the rain we did on Tuesday but it rained.  I worried about him having wet feet.  What if he got trench foot?  Okay way over the top.  I beat myself up over and over.  Why didn’t I just send the boots?  I wished I could relive that moment of packing over.  I’d do it differently.  I pointed my accusing finger at my husband.  “Why didn’t you make me send the boots if you thought he should take them?”

“I did tell you to send the boots, over and over again.”  I looked at him.  I didn’t remember him saying to send the boots.  Only that he showed me where they fit in the duffle bag and then him telling me to keep them behind because I’d gone on about it repeatedly.  I stopped.  My brain had no recollection of Mark telling me to send the boots.  I’d only heard what I’d wanted to hear.  Don’t send them.

How selective is our hearing?  Do we make decisions and then tune everything and everyone else out?  We hear the words we want to hear.  That support our arguments and agendas.  Do I hear selectively with God as well?  Am I missing huge parts of our conversation because I’ve tuned Him out?  I’ve heard what I want to hear, justified my reasoning?  What adventures, journeys are we missing out on due to our selective hearing?  I wasn’t even aware of my hearing problem.  Let me rephrase that.  I am aware I can be bullheaded but it shocked me how bad it really is.  How I totally missed a whole part of a conversation!  How one-sided it was!

Does God get tired of being told to shut up (in a nice way)?  Does His silence sometimes come as a result because we aren’t listening to begin with? We’ve tuned Him out?  Do we make poor choices as a result?

I need to go back and examine how I communicate with God.  And people.  This is going to take some work.  I need an hearing aid.

A consequence of my selective hearing was I made a poor choice and my son is the one who is most affected.  He’ll be the one with wet and muddy feet.  Our hearing problems don’t just affect us but often those we love as well.  I don’t think I’ll look at those boots the same ever again.