Parents Without Camp Experience
The Idea of Camp Seems Crazy to Me
Imagining a camp experience for my child, I’m thinking I’m sending my child off into the woods—and I’ve seen The Shining—scary—and there are TV reports every day and night about all of the bad things that can happen to my child when out of my sight even just on the playground much less hundreds of miles away off in the woods where there might be lions and tigers and bears—oh my! And I’m supposed to just send my child off for a couple of weeks or longer and not have them call me, and I’m not able to just drop in and see how my baby’s doing (although I guess I can’t do that when at school either), and I should just “trust” this camp director person who I don’t know from Adam to take care of my child, and how do I know my baby’s going to be safe, and how is s/he going to survive without me and the rest of our family alone for two weeks…two weeks? Yikes!! That seems crazy to me!! I should send my child away to camp and suffer all of this?
Camp Norms Are Foreign to Me
Sure, I’ve heard friends who went to camp discuss how much they enjoyed the campfires and singing songs all the time and forging lifetime friendships and eating S’mores and drinking “bug juice” and challenging themselves and doing new things and growing as people and on and on about how much they loved their camp experience. But that doesn’t mean much to me. All I know is that my baby will be away from my protection for two weeks…two weeks!!
To Benefit My Child, Sometimes I Must Stretch My Comfort Level
Do I need to just get over myself to benefit my child? Okay, rationally I know the answer is definitely a “yes.” I know it’s sometimes hard, but as a mindful parent, I sometimes have to get over myself in order to benefit my child. As my former camper friends have told me, by allowing my baby a camp experience, I can give my child an opportunity for the human connections, awareness of the natural world, independence, and character development that only a quality camp experience can provide. They’re helping me acknowledge that a camp experience can empower my child in a variety of valuable character development ways. Citting a recent survey from the American Camp Association, these friends who have drunk the kool aid recount the myriad benefits of a summer camp experience. Overwhelming majorities of campers: make new friends, get to know campers who are different from themselves, feel good about themselves, do things they were at first afraid to do, gain self-confidence, use tools and skills learned at camp, and stay in contact with friends made at camp. So yes, just as I recognize how school develops my child academically and I make sure s/he maximizes that experience growing her/his mind, I know that I don’t want my child to miss out on the important character development that is available only during an immersive, overnight summer camp experience.
I Can Empower Myself So That I Feel Comfortable…Enough
So how can I make this happen? How can I get my child to camp and not lose sleep at night with my worries—whether rational or not? It’s true; I do sacrifice my own comfort to benefit my child in many other aspects of life; facilitating a camp experience is a critical time to stretch myself for my baby’s benefit. Just as I didn’t necessarily feel at ease as s/he wobbled down the road riding a bike alone for the first time, I knew that s/he needed to do that on his/her own, and to continue to develop as a young person. So I need to do what it takes to allow my child the benefits of an empowering camp experience, while also giving myself sufficient comfort to feel at ease with the decision.
And I need to do this. After all, I don’t want my child to be experiencing life away from home for the first time at age 21 (or later…). I don’t want to stunt my child’s development just because I need to feel “comfortable”. I know that I can’t keep my child in my sight at all times. When they were younger, I needed to allow them to cross the road that first time. I now need to maintain their growth by facilitating deeper interaction with others. I can’t put my baby in a bubble for fear of being hurt…I don’t want to guarantee stunted development.
Specific Ways I Can Become More Comfortable
So how can I make this happen? There’s help for me…My former camper friends tell me I can:
- contact parent references of others who have been in my shoes…and lived to tell about how empowering it was both for the child and initially reluctant parent;
- attend a family weekend, mother-daughter weekend, or do a camp visit so I can (literally) drink the kool-aid and see what this camp stuff is all about for myself;
- get any questions I have answered so that I’m not denying my child a critical growth experience.
If I don’t yet feel ready, I can seek help from trusted friends or others who have been in the same circumstance so I don’t need to be the one holding back my child!