School’s out and my kids have assumed the position. You know the one. On the couch, half eaten bag of chips between their knees. Yup. There they sit in their favorite pajamas, slack jawed and feckless.
We let the usual rules slide during the first week of summer break. We all need a rest from programmed activities, carpools, and homework.
So for this week, and this week only, it’s OK to sleep ’til noon and watch three episodes of Phil of the Future in one sitting. This is the week to boast about your Flappy Bird high score and eat microwaved breakfast foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Here’s the drill: When they bicker over the remote, I (predictably) shriek at them to put on some pants and go play outside. It’s glorious. For about three days.
After that it’s more like Lord of the Flies.
I read my dear friend Jeanette Kaplun’s post on why she doesn’t send her kids to camp with some amount of jealousy. The summers at home she describes sounds so idyllic and so unlike the reality of ours. Do we just live in the wrong neighborhood? Is it because I’m a failure at bucket lists that involve homemade chalk and popsicles? Is it because I’m a workaholic?
I’d love for my kids to have an old fashioned 70’s summer, but I can’t even image how we’d survive without it getting ugly. I was a kid in the late ’70s and early ’80s and my parents sent me to camp too. Not for the whole summer, but certainly for a part of it. There were only so many Gilligan’s Island reruns and guilt trips about their inability to take off work and take me to the pool/beach/park they could take. My friends were all off on adventures in the Adirondacks, and there’s only so many times you can build the same fort in the backyard and practice your cartwheel on the neighbor’s front lawn without them getting annoyed. Despite the fact, I was awesome at cartwheels.
Camp is very expensive. But I’d sell my left kidney to send my kids there. Here’s why:
- They try things at camp that they wouldn’t dream of trying at home. Case in point: I tried to make my son eat a burger once, and he hurled on me. At camp he cooked his own over a campfire, ate it, and did not vomit (though he claims he hated it).
- It gives kids a chance to “own” their own experiences without filtering through your eyes, their school, and neighborhood friend’s eyes, etc. It’s a chance to really get to know themselves, try new and “scary” things, and in some cases reinvent themselves. Second case-in-point: My daughter who is not sporty and who hates the ocean, can’t wait to get back on a stand up paddle board and go skindiving. At camp. This simply wouldn’t have happened at home, she wouldn’t have agreed to go with me.
- Camp (at least a good one) provides near peers that are extremely, positively influential. Kids look up to their counselors and want to emulate them. This is a powerful force for life-shaping good that parents simply cannot achieve. Sorry parents, you are not cool like a 19-year-old college student.
- It provides a healthy, active, variety filled, and fun daily routine that I simply cannot at home. I can barely swing breakfast and coloring while trying to get my work done, let alone power boat activities and arts and crafts.
- Camp teaches life skills like making your bed and composting, in a way that parents can’t. It’s a group activity. It’s FUN. Believe me, I did a double-take and wondered what was in the bug juice when my kids came home and begged for a composter. But it makes perfect sense, given that it’s something they did daily while joking with friends.
By day three of summer break, my kids are counting down the days until camp. They love having time to be home and not have to go anywhere or do anything, but honestly, if you gave them the choice, they’d give it up in a second for one more week of camp.
Selfishly I cannot bear to part with them the whole summer. But I will admit to you the last reason why I think kids need camp: we all need a break from each other. It’s a chance to splash some cold water on our faces, refresh, and reassess.
When my kids come home, I can see them again with fresh eyes. I am amazed by how they have grown. I am in awe of the skills they have acquired and though I never thought it possible, I’m always amazed that I think I love them a little bit more. They bring new skills, confidence, and dreams to the table that are completely their own.
I wouldn’t trade it for all the coconuts on Gilligan’s Island.