From one Camp Parent to another...
From one Camp Parent to another...welcome to the family.
Two little words that can strike you with joy and fear at the same time. Whether it was your child's idea to go to camp or your own idea (while making them think it was their idea), you are about to experience an emotional rollercoaster.
The fear part is usually belongs to us:
- Will my kid have fun and make new friends?
- Will he eat more than just a bag of Skittles every day?!
- Will he be cared for and stay safe without me?
- Will he learn new things?
- WILL HE BRUSH HIS TEETH, REMEMBER TO SHOWER, AND CHANGE HIS UNDERWEAR (Please, just once in the week)?!?
Let me fill you in on the answers that I've learned to these questions...
- It's hard not to. Actually, nearly impossible.
- Yes, although not always as you would expect.
- Um...Probably not...Well, maybe once on the last day when you come to pick him up. I'd recommend keeping the windows open on your drive home.
The joy part can come in many forms. Some kids begin counting off the days on their calendars from the moment they are registered for summer. That single week at camp is the highlight of their whole year. Let's be honest, as parents, we love our children but there is also some joy in the fact that someone else will be looking after them for a few days (I get to drink my morning coffee in peace).
I may be a little biased about the importance of summer camp since both my husband and I had amazing experiences at summer camp when we were kids. Great enough, in fact, that we both ended up working at Evergreen when we were young adults (this is where we met...but that will be a letter for another day). There something so exciting and completely surreal when you are able to bring your kids to the same place that impacted me. I want them to do all of the things I did...
Actually...no, I don't. There's a reason there are safety rules now!
I do want them to be able to grow in their own relationship with Jesus, make new life-long friends, and may so many amazing memories like we did when we were kids. To do that - I have to let them go out on their own and not stand in the way of becoming their own person. This is one of the hardest parent lessons to learn. Summer camp is a place where kids get to leave the cell phones at home, speak without those weird acronyms, make new friends in a safe and natural environment.
Kids are all so different. Our kids are older now, but I remember when one of our sons first went to summer camp for the short "Sparks" week when he was only 5 years old. I'm pretty sure he didn't even say goodbye - just a quick wave and off he went. It was me who was sniffling my way back to the car! Our other two sons waited a couple of extra years before their first time at camp. I think because of that, they have also thrived at camp, bringing their non-church friends with them each year.
I have learned, over the years, that asking questions on the way home (if they are even awake) from camp can be like pulling teeth. It's possible they are are still processing all of their experiences (or it's because they are over-tired or twitchy from those aforementioned Skittles). I have learned to be patient for the moments when they start talking about camp. One of my favourite things is when I overhear conversations between our boys and their friends, "hey, remember that time at camp last year when we ran through the forest at midnight looking for our tuck candy?!", which is always followed by fits of giggles.
I KNOW what you're thinking...that parent part of you that wants to say, "WHAT?! You were RUNNING through the forest in the dark?! AT MIDNIGHT?! FOR CANDY?! Did you brush your teeth afterwards?!"
Younger me would have been right there with my boys thinking that was the greatest night ever!
It really all comes down to hearing them sing the songs that they learned in chapel or something the speaker said as they remember their week at camp, or when we go camping as a family and they know how to cook over an open fire.
Those moments. I love those moments. The memories and experiences that will stay with my boys forever.
Those are the things that make it all worth it.
Even though, when you packed their suitcase so nicely and neatly before camp, and then just to unpack after to find a big pile of soggy, muddy socks crumpled on top of the untouched, folded, still clean clothes...*sigh*...
At least he remembered to change his socks.