I have always enjoyed reading articles about summer camp and the countless ways that children (and parents!) benefit from the experience of going away to camp each summer. I realize that I am not the target audience of the writers because I am already sold on the benefits of summer camp. Still, I love the articles and blogs dedicated to summer camps because each time that I read one I am able to picture a specific camper or parent in my life who could easily be the subject of the article. Sometimes I picture a Robindel camper who I have watched grow each summer, sometimes I am reminded of a friend who is thinking about sending her child to camp for the first time, and other times I think about the many families I have met who fit into this category: When I mention summer camp, the child’s eyes light up, she smiles and excitedly ask questions about camp before telling me that she can’t wait to go. Meanwhile, the mother is saying things like “No, it’s too far for her to go away. She isn’t ready.” Of course, what she really means is “That’s too far away for me. I am not ready to let go.” I am not a parent yet so I can only guess how I will react when I think about sending my own children to camp one day. Based on the number of times that I have heard “Just wait until you are a mother!” I am sure that I will react very differently from how I anticipate. But, I am confident that one thing that will not change is my belief in the benefits of summer camp for all families.
So, now that I am officially a blogger following a blogger I must give credit to the inspiration for this blog post. Sunshine Parenting is a blog written by a mother and summer camp director in California. She recently wrote a blog post called “Parking Your Helicopter” which you can view here. As you can likely guess, she talks about the independence, problem solving and decision-making skills that children develop at camp because they are supported by their counselors and friends, but not attached to their cell phones or parent’s opinions. At home, many children immediately turn to their parents when faced with a decision or problem. And, since most kids have cell phones at a young age, this is possible at any hour of the day, in almost any situation! What to eat for lunch? Which club to join at school? Disagreement with a friend? Got scraped up at soccer practice? Call Mom!
Enter summer camp: a place where nobody is attached to a cell phone or “unable” to break away from a computer or television. At camp, every day is dedicated to face-to-face conversations. Kids learn to make eye contact, talk about their day with their friends and counselors (rather than texting), share funny stories (rather than sharing photos online), laugh until their bellies hurt (not just LOL-ing), and participate in activities that they may have never tried had they been at home, weighing the options with their parents.
I often wish that parent’s could be like invisible helicopters, hovering above camp to see the courage, talent, creativity and kindness that their daughter exhibits at camp. Camp counselors see a side of children that their parents never get to see, because at camp children truly feel free to be themselves and take risks. So often, parents are shocked to find out that their daughter voluntarily signed up to participate in a dance show or a rock climbing trip. On visiting day, I watch parent’s knuckles turn white as they squeeze each others hands while watching their daughter stand up on water skis or climb around the challenge course 30 feet in the air.
If you are one of these parents you should be proud that you have “parked your helicopter,” at least for the summer, and given your daughter the gift of a summer camp experience. I am sorry that you don’t get to see her daily accomplishments at camp, but I know that you will see change in your daughter upon returning home at the end of the summer and that the skills she develops at camp will be with her forever.
Did you grow up going to summer camp? We’d love to hear how your camp experiences have helped you in your adult life! Let us know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org