This summer, most of my son’s friends and cousins will be at sleep away camp. Some parents I know even rejoice at the idea of being without their kids for a few weeks. Others simply think it’s the right thing to do once your child is old enough to be on their own. Our family, however, is in no rush to go weeks without seeing or speaking to our child. We actually look forward to being able to spend more time together during the summer without the pressure of homework, school projects or strict schedules.
Aside from saving thousands of dollars by not sending my son to sleep away camp, I actually feel we’ll be gaining so much as a family by enjoying the summer months together. I’d rather spend money on a joint vacation in which we explore the world or a different culture. After all, I know my kids’ childhood has an expiration date and the older they get, the more limited my time is with them.
Yes, at its best, camping away from home can be a wonderful experience for children. It allows them to become more independent, make new friends, be disconnected from technology and enjoy activities outdoors. Many kids I know beg to go. However, I don’t think all kids need to leave home to gain those experiences.
There are many other choices. My kids do go to a summer day camp where they have field trips, outdoor fun and make new friends. But they also get the chance to simply be kids, riding their bikes around the neighborhood when they feel like it, meeting for last-minute play dates or going out for frozen yogurt with me on a weeknight. Summer for me is freeing in so many ways even if we don’t travel. During the school year life tends to be so structured, finding us rushing from one place to the next, over-scheduled and lacking the time to simply be. We tend to lack spontaneity and cannot afford to want to do something at the last minute because every day is carefully planned in order to fit in all of our obligations. That’s why even the tiniest of surprises, like traffic delays due to rain, cause so much stress: it can throw off our entire day.
Spending the summer with my children even if I continue working is a gift for me. There’s no reason to make them grow up faster. I can barely keep up as it is! It might be harder to keep them entertained or to have them discover how to have fun on their own, but it’s worth it. As they navigate the tween and preteen years, I also get to know them better and strengthen our relationship by welcoming the unexpected and enjoying the everyday.
So unless my son truly begs me to send him away next year and manages to convince me he would be missing out on an extraordinary opportunity, I will continue enjoying the summer together. If I really look at the big picture, in seven years he’ll be off to college and truly on his own. I might as well milk every second I have until then.