When I asked my 10 year old daughter if she is ready to go away to a sleepaway camp like her older brother, she responded,” I could be but I just don’t think you are ready for me to go.” It’s funny because, it’s kind of true. She is my baby and we are very close. Sometimes these milestones are necessary opportunities for our children to individuate and launch out on a trial run out into the wilderness on their own. But sometimes the truth is, while it may be hard for them to go, it may be even harder for us to let them.
SLEEPAWAY CAMP IS A RIGHT OF PASSAGE
Sleepaway camp is a fantastic opportunity for your kid to have their first experience of being on their own in a fun, safe and temporary way. It has been a right of passage for generations of kids on the verge of becoming more independent and autonomous young adults. The memories forged in the woods at summer camp are often the most nostalgic and fond of childhood memories. There is the magic of summer camp fires, and long hot days spent at the lake and summer friends to create happy memories. Being off on their own gives them a chance to feel brave and come home feeling changed by the experience.
My son has done sleepaway camp in the woods of Maine, at a historic camp that his father had gone to as a child. They sleep in cabins, some that are open aired and have drop down tarps for when it rains. They learn sailing and sports and ranger skills. There are no phones, no tv and no computers. They learn sportsmanship on teams and explore character and ethics in the Native American style council they participate in around the campfire every Saturday night. My son came home more confident and calm than I had ever seen him. But to tell the truth when we dropped him off, I felt irrationally angry for having to let him go. I Knew it was going to be a good experience for him, but worry crept in. What if he gets hurt? What if he is afraid or lonely? Who will comfort him? It was a difficult first week for me to adjust to the longest I had ever been away from my first child. Meanwhile, he was having the time of his life.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
When it comes to choosing a sleepaway camp for your child, do your research. Ask your friends. Look into different time options. Back in the day when my husband went to camp it was 7 full weeks. Now they offer half sessions which younger children can do just three and a half weeks. There are plenty of camps that offer one week sessions for those kids who just want to get their feet wet in the sleepaway experience. Have conversations with your kids about why it will be fun if they are hesitant. Tell them why it will be hard for you too and how you will miss them. A good idea is to arrange to go with a close friend so that they can feel more comfortable about being away from home. Explore different possibilities for different ages. Sleepaway camp can be an incredibly rewarding experience and a chance for your child (and you) to grow and be brave.