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Why Overnight Camp Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

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This is the 1st in a three part series about why I send my child to summer camp.

photo by Jill Butin Neuman

It happens each summer. People ask about our plans, and when certain folks learn that our child spends several weeks each summer at overnight camp, I am met with looks of incredulity and sometimes horror.

More often than not, people gasp and say things like: “I could never do that,” as if to imply that I somehow force my son to pack his trunk and duffel and get out of our house. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if I didn’t let him go, he would consider that the biggest punishment – ever!

Sometimes I get a variation on the theme: “I would never do that.” This response is extra excellent as it is packed with a little judgment, which I really appreciate. This response implies that I am somehow harming my child, perhaps inviting trouble into his life because I won’t be there to oversee his every move 100% of the time. (Can you imagine?)

When people respond this way, I sometimes get a little snarky and say, “At least this summer he came home with nine fingers.” (Insert a dramatic pause.) “Last summer was a disaster.” I know they are imagining pedophiles lurking around the showers or picturing their own children drowning, their heads being held under water by rowdy unsupervised troublemakers.

These are their issues.

For me, overnight camp was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me, and I feel fortunate that my husband and I are able to pay this gift forward to our child. Here’s what overnight camp gave me and continues to give children who attend each year:

1. Continued Independence. Each August, sonny boy and his posse of buddies hop on the camp bus and return with a kind of “we-can-survive-without-our-parents” vibe. I once asked my son if anyone ever gets homesick. He shrugged, “Usually, our counselors keep us too busy to even think about being homesick. If it does happen, it is usually the new kids – but once they get into it and get comfortable with the routine, all that homesickness goes away,” then he added, “Plus, we take care of each other.”

2. Benefits of Communal Life. Living in a bunk with 8 or 9 “summer siblings” affords kids the opportunity to develop some amazing problem solving skills.

If there is an argument, instead of a parent swooping in to the rescue, the boys generally have to work it out by themselves.

That means using their mouths to directly communicate their feelings. Sometimes they aren’t so great at expressing the subtle nuances of their emotions, but – again – they have each other to lean on. If things ever escalate, they have counselors and Unit Heads to help them.

There are other benefits of living in a large group. The boys learn to respect each other’s property, tolerate each other’s quirks, and appreciate each other’s boundaries. Everyone sees each other at their best and their worst selves. Summer camp goes a long way towards undoing that horrible “entitled” attitude. The spoiled girl quickly learns when her peers have had enough of her whining. Kids are patient to a point, but when an entire bunk is angry at you, it is time to take a look in the mirror. Campers quickly learn that despite the fact that a person cannot always get what he wants, everything usually turns out okay in the end.

3. Time Away from Technology. Okay, so when I was young, there was less technology, but I still missed Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and General Hospital. These days, chances are that your children know how to do things on your computer and cell phone that you had no idea could be done. During the school year, older kids are addicted to their social networks (Facebook and MySpace), their email accounts, their Apps, the Internet, and IMing. They are used to the constant buzz-ping of each new text message as it arrives. Being unplugged from most technology allows kids to connect with each other, a valuable skill that seems to be getting lost a bit these days. My son reminds me, “We’re not totally cut off. We can have iPods (there is no Wi-Fi access), so if someone needs some alone time, he can just pop in the ear buds.” But staff members have told me that after a few days, many kids begin to prefer people to gadgets, and rather than tune out, they start to look for other campers to “hang out with.”

4. Connection to Nature. While our family is fortunate to live in an area with plenty of access to great parks, during the school year, many children just do not have a lot of spare time to go outside and play. My son says, “At camp, we are kind of forced to appreciate nature. It’s easy to forget, but once you start walking around, you can’t help but remember.” Camp Seneca Lake has over 200 acres to explore. Trails to blaze. There are squirrels, field mice, lots of ants and millipedes; there are raccoons and skunks and deer. There is a beautiful lake with a beach that consists of zillions of flat shale rocks, perfect for skipping. What more could a kid want?

5. Opportunity to Try New Things. I like to think of CSL as a “liberal arts” camp.

Unlike sports camps where kids learn the skills necessary to specialize in one venue, at CSL kids have the opportunity to try new things simply because they have access to so many opportunities they may not have at home.

The “non-jock” can try floor hockey or excel at Ga-ga, a weird game I’ve never seen played outside of summer camp. There are plays in which kids can perform; an art barn where children can make jewelry, throw on the potter’s wheel, batik, make candles, draw, paint, make just about anything. (A far cry from boondoggle – although they have plenty of that, too.) At Athletics, they can practice archery, basketball, tetherball, softball, tennis, ping-pong – and any other land sport you can think of. The waterfront offers canoeing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, sailing, banana boating — even opportunities to swim-the-lake! Picky eaters might even try something new because the kids work up a real appetite trying all these incredible activities.

There is more to say, and I will, but I would also love to hear from you.

Would you allow your child to attend overnight camp for an extended period of time? Why or why not?

127 thoughts on “Why Overnight Camp Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

  1. I have no kids yet, but summer camp was always a highlight of my summers.

    Also, Ga-ga is amazing, and I’ve also never seen it played anywhere but camp. For that alone, I would say “YAY camp!”

  2. I work with middle school students, and every year we take them to a week long camp in Prescott, AZ. It always makes me sad when I hear students who couldn’t make it say it was because their parents wouldn’t “let them.” Camp is an awesome place for kids to come out of their shells, try new things, face their fears, and get to know their peers better. Thanks for this post!

  3. First off, in terms of fair disclosure, I am a camp director….so, you are preaching to the choir!

    I was just posting my every other day wordpress update for our parents, alumni and interested parties when I noticed your posting….

    You have totally nailed it….You have hit on just about everything that is wonderful for children (and young adults) about the camp experience….

    The only thing that I would add is the sense of belonging that kids get from a healthy camp experience. That is to say, most camp kids are around the middle school ages. It is a time when kids can be cruel and unkind to each other. Camps provide and advocate a healthy environment that is centered on treating each other well….They work to intentionally create communities in which kids can be accepted for who they are. And THAT is excactly what kids of that age need….

    So…BRAVO for your post…thanks for spreading the important good word.

    And, if you are dying for a taste of camp in your post camper years, feel free to read all about it at:

    http://nebagamon.wordpress.com (sorry….couldn’t help it!)

  4. Great article. We have a summer camp for kids and it’s in France. We had 9 parents who sent their kids with us for 18 days. It changed their lives. I have many friends who send their kids to sleep-away camps and believe it makes their child more independent, encourages their child to make new friends, etc.. some go for the whole summer. I loved going away to summer camp, although mine was gymnastics camp. But I made great friends, had a wonderful time and came home a bit more mature.

  5. I wish I could be a kid again at summer camp. It was some of the best times of my life. Any parent who makes those kinds of comments is an idiot, and I bet their kids just want to get the hell away from them.

  6. How about 7 weeks? I almost always get looks from people about that. All 3 of mine are at camp now. My youngest just started and will only be there 3 weeks. We just got a very unhappy letter from him, although he loved camp last year. He is already doing better, and we know that this will be a good life lesson for him. He is learning how to deal with people he doesn’t like and he is learning how to transition to a new situation. It will be his choice whether he goes again next summer.

  7. You could not be more RIGHT!! Summer camp one of the best gifts you can give your child. My daughter is off for her very first year at an overnight camp in the Northern Woods of Wisconsin, and her fantastic letters filled with all of the new things she has tried plus the beaming photos of her on the camp website let me know that she is creating incredible, lifetime memories. It is my hope that this if the first year of many for her to be at overnight camp, and children to do not get this experience truly miss out.

  8. Camp…each summer I channel myself to be in the circle of trees, water and community where human beings come together and mirror the beauty of nature. Singing outside in groups with the voices young children and teens with adults — a spiritual experience that has translated into medicine for me. I do it still — carrying it to the lifeworld of the ill. Honored that Stu remembers “You’ve Got a Friend”-someone just sent it to me on FB. The summers at Camp Seneca Lake still live in me. The best part of my young kid life…has kept me young, actually — am ‘camp sick’ perpetually in the summer.

    1. You have no idea how alive you still are in so many of us, Joanne. My first summer was in the late 1970s, and I still hear your name in my head when we “just call out your name” (Joanne) — it is burned it there, forever, with some half-charred stick from the waterfront campfire. Those summers were just right. You were just right. You were our love medicine. The people you sing to, though ill, are blessed to have your music in their lives.

  9. Yes, yes, and YES!!!

    BRAVO!!

    I went to overnight camp when I was a kid and I loved it. And you know what? No one molested me, I wasn’t bullied or beaten up or injured in any way. Can you believe it???

    There is a book that should be required reading for all parents – Culture of Fear – and I can’t remember the author’s name right now.

    1. THE CULTURE OF FEAR: WHY AMERICANS ARE AFRAID OF THE WRONG THINGS by Barry Glassner. A GREAT read. You must know Lenore Skenazy, too — right? FREE RANGE KIDS: HOW TO RAISE SAFE, SELF-RELIANT KIDS WITHOUT GOING CRAZY. http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

  10. I spent 10 wonderful years at Camp Narrin, a Girl Scout resident camp in Ortonville, Michigan. I LIVED for the four weeks that I got to spend there because it was really the only time of the year I felt at ease – like I belonged. As an only child, I loved sharing the platform tent with 3 other girls. I even liked the “housekeeping” chores we had to do, cooking out – ALL of it! My parents were so afraid when they sent me away for the first time – it was a two week session and they were sure I would be homesick! NOT! In fact, I wrote them mid week and asked if I could come back for the NEXT 2-week session and they arranged it! I was thrilled! I went on to spend 10 more years camp counseling (after a 2-year Counselor-in-Training Program) at various G.S. camps in Michigan and Ohio. Best gift my parents ever gave me!

  11. Summer camp is a way to expose the talents of a child and one can get refreshment after the burden of lots of study.

  12. I agree- camps are a great bonding and learning experience- especially for the older kids!

  13. I don’t have a kid as yet, but when I do, I will make sure that he gets to spend days and if not months connecting with nature and with people. There have been many good weeks in my life, but when I was 16, I spent a couple of weeks with other 16 year olds, a night’s train journey away from my home and city, for a soccer tourney at this place – http://goethalite.wordpress.com/ . I have lost touch with all those 16 year olds. And sometimes when life seems a drudgery, a little boring, a little short of enthusiasm. I remind myself of those two weeks. I had the time of my life. It was magic. Sheer magic.

    http://ideasfororganizations.wordpress.com

  14. We have seem to have forgotten the mature way of upbringing kids. Camping happens to be just one of the wonderful parts of childhood. My mom never stopped me if I wanted to join the school trips. Oh and I learned a lot. Mom was actually worried when I said that I wasn’t homesick even a bit the 1st time. Even at a young age, camping ensures and exposes kids kids to new experience whereby they learn how to be individuals instead of being just a little one alone. Congratulations.

  15. I don’t have kids yet, but I know for certain that we will be looking into sleep-away camps as soon as my hypothetical future children are old enough. The two weeks my sister spent at our camp each summer are some of the fondest memories we have.

    I was a painfully shy little girl, and meeting new people every year at camp brought me out of my shell. Camp was where I finally learned how to be myself and not be afraid of meeting new people or speaking up. By my third year there I was one of the “old-timers” and I ended up taking other shy, scared girls under my wing. Without that experience I would be a different person today.

    I know my mom was nervous sending me off for the first time. This was her little girl who would stare at her feet and mumble whenever meeting new people. Her little girl who couldn’t even look at a waitress, and would be sent into near panic by questions like, “and what dressing would you like on your salad.” Her little girl who never played with other kids – just sat on the bench and read a book and occasionally looked up at the other kids running and playing and sighed.

    Imagine her surprise when she returned in two weeks and I was begging to stay, talking about how I couldn’t wait to come back, and introducing her to everybody in the camp – all of whom were my new best friends!

  16. Great post. Thanks. Yes I would definitely allow it, I think parents can protect their children too much if we’re not careful. They need to be able to learn to operate in a tough world early on, and turn out to be nice people in it too.

    I was just saying that we only have one summer camp that I know of in South Africa, and how I would love to get on started here. Maybe I should do so!!

  17. This is an awesome post you have here. I would surely let my boys attend camp overnight. The friends, adventures and stories they bring home are priceless. I so remember going to camp and was so happy to learn what nature was all about.

    In the meantime, my boys attend a daily summer camp called outpost summer camp in San Diego. Here they get picked up from my home in the morning, then brought back at the end of the day. They do tons of activities; they swim and learn to play with mud and nature. They come home singing songs and learn magic tricks.

    Keep up the great articles.

  18. In the winter, I used to dream about going back to camp. About a year ago I reconnected with friends from camp that I hadn’t talked to in 25 years and all the memories came flooding back. Made me wish I could go back.

  19. I agree as long as the child is ready to go. Forcing kids just “so they grow up” can be damaging. For example, we have one child who would love this, and one for whom it would be a nightmare.

  20. Camp is magic. I met my husband and dearest friends at camp. Our children say that we genetically engineered them to love it. They are now counselors/group leaders at the same camp they went to as campers.
    My daughter wrote her senior honors thesis for college about camp!

    Check out the facebook page “Because of Camp”. Camp absolutely changes lives.
    Also see the book “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” — let’s let our children experience life and learn about it by doing!

    Thanks for writing this and starting the conversation.

    1. I am familiar with the Facebook page and SKINNED KNEE is one of my favorite books! Yay! So, apparently, there are a lot of choir members out there. Where are all the people who give me the looks? They are awfully quiet!

  21. Right you are! I had my first taste of overnight camp just a month ago. For the first time in my life, I was away from home for four days. It was great, of course. My parents were reluctant to let me go at first, but just like your son, I would have also considered it as a punishment if they hadn’t let me go! You have very nice points. I was deeply interested. 🙂

  22. I sent my daughter to camp every summer, actually she usually went to 2 or 3 camps a summer. There are lots of different types of camps, so think about what would interest your child, but allow them the opportunity to try some things they think they might not like. My daughter loved camp, but didn’t like being away from home for more than 1 week. But once she touched base at home for a few days, she was ready to go again, hence she went to several 1 week camps rather than one long camp. Also at about the age of 12, she didn’t want to do the nature thing anymore so we found some wonderful camps that are held on college campuses and the kids stay in the dorms, perfect for her. It’s just knowing your child and what they are able to handle. Did I mention she is now an attorney and credits summer camps for helping her overcome her shyness and building her self confidence?

    1. Absolutely true! While I am (obviously) an advocate of trying an outdoor type camp (just because kids spend so little time outdoors these days), if it doesn’t work, let it go! But don’t be afraid to keep trying to find the right summer overnight experience for your child. I’m so glad you didn’t stop at camp #1! And I’m glad that your daughter sees the value in being allowed to go out on her own a bit. SO much hovercraft/helicopter parenting these days, and it isn’t doing our children any favors!

  23. Great Post! As a camp counselor/director for the last 8 years (and hopefully 8 more), I really appreciated this! I can think of a number of parents who could read this.

  24. When I was young I went to summer camp each year and I loved it! Two weeks no parents and only friends and fun, being outside and camping. There’s nothing greater than that and sometimes I wish I could go back! I think every child should go to summer camp or at least have the choice.
    Thanks for the post!

  25. Thank you for your share!I agree as long as the child is ready to go. Forcing kids just “so they grow up” can be damaging. For example, we have one child who would love this, and one for whom it would be a nightmare.

  26. I concur with all of the above.

    1. Hmmm. You sound like a lawyer! Did you learn how to “concur” in summer camp? 😉

  27. Beautiful post, Renee. Camp is such an essential part of a child’s upbringing, in my opinion, for all of the reasons you mentioned. And yes, the friendships you make at camp last a lifetime. Amazing how just a few short weeks over the summer each year bring so many of us together. One of your commenter’s said it beautifully; ‘It was the first place my young heart fell in love and the first place I learned to dance ~ I would not change those experiences for anything.’ Ana Rebeka..Poetic.

    All children should have the opportunity to experience overnight camp. Forget those crazy parents that give you a hard time…what losers. My kids are going next summer…no matter what! And, yes, I still talk to a lot of my camp friends till this day…[thank God for FB for that!]

  28. Sorry about that. You can see the interview I mentioned above here.

    Camp is a great catalyst of growth for kids. I hope many more people send their kids to camp because of posts like this one.

  29. Hey, this is a great blog and a great topic. I’m Michael from Germany, since 20 years I´m a professional traditional bowyer, before I had been a social worker coaching disadvantaged kids.

    During summers, I do lot of bow- and archery- classes for adults and kids. I teach kids to make their own wooden bow, arrows, to use them without endangering others, to take care of their archery- tackle. I´m coaching others how to guide or to organize summer-camps, I run my own summer-camps too.

    I find Renée´s article very important and double it as well as most of the comments.

    I am the father of 2 wonderful daughters, an adult one, who has left for university and her own life 8 years ago and her sister, now 11 years old. Both know summer- camps very well, they came along with me, when I was ordered for a camp. Maybe you should know what comes next: my little one has just left last Friday for her first summer- camp without me! Her first overnight camp without me! It is only for 9 days, I know the owners of the camp, I know 3 friends of her are with here, it is not far away from our home (a half an hour- ride). When she has left, I felt somehow sad and caught myself up on clearing up her room the whole afternoon, even though I should have done some other things. Saturday morning I came across this wordpress freshly pressed article, call it accident or not.

    Reading the article and the comments, the pro and cons: it is all dealing with children leaving their home. My adult daughter is living her own life since years, so I thought I know what it is all about my little one leaving for her first overnight- camp. But there are pains you’ve nothing but to accept. Every time my daughters are leaving, I feel sad. That´s it, that´s being a father too: I worry about what could happen to them, are they well? … even I know very well what summer- camps are … .one of the most important gifts parents can offer their children.

    I really advise parents to let their children go for overnight- camp, when it is the time and when it is possible. I would add, enjoy the time when your kids are in camp, it should be a great time for the parents too. Be prepared for the day when the kids come back home again; usually they´ll return with a new self- confidence, new friendships, new ideas, new habits, so there´ll be some trouble, for sure. You know, “In camp it was much better…”

  30. I’ve been a camp counselor for many years. I can tell you from watching the kids and counselors that it definitely changes you as a child, teen or adult.

    Communal living allows for growth opportunities that cannot be found elsewhere.

    You’ll deal with a lot of drama, but come out stronger and with deeper connections because of it.

  31. It’s nice to see all of the positive thought about summer camp. As a kid, I was sent to only a “day” camp at the local park and rec. It was fun, but not quite what I’m reading here. My kids have not gone to summer camp, but with all of the life lessons that are obviously being learned, next summer may include camp for at least one of the kids! Thank you for the info.

  32. I really advise parents to let their children go for overnight- camp, when it is the time and when it is possible. I would add, enjoy the time when your kids are in camp, it should be a great time for the parents too. Be prepared for the day when the kids come back home again; usually they´ll return with a new self- confidence, new friendships, new ideas, new habits, so there´ll be some trouble, for sure. You know, “In camp it was much better…”

  33. As someone who has worked in summer camps for over a decade, thank you for your thoughtful reflections – may they be heard (read) around the world!

  34. I advise parents to let their children go for overnight- camp, when it is the time and when it is possible. let parents join to it should be a great time too. All children should have the opportunity to experience overnight camp. Forget those crazy parents that give you a hard time…what losers. My kids are going next summer…no matter what! And, yes, I still talk to a lot of my camp friends till this day…

  35. Camp was my favorite – for 8 years; daughters went for 10 years. Best times ever.

  36. Well, first, hello from Brazil. I agree with you, there´s nothing to be afraid of. Camping is something magic, the contact with Nature, Mother Nature, is essential for a better life.I just think that people should less “couch potato” and try to do something different with their lives.But, I am not telling about taking a Traillertruck and travelling. Go to the forest, feel the air.
    Take Care
    André

  37. The best summers I ever had were at summer camp, hands down, no doubt. I would recommend summer camp to anyone who asks. I loved camp so much, I became a camp counselor myself. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go back in years, but I generally start dreaming about camp in January, when applications start to get ready for the next summer! The camp I went to had 3 different programs: a one week program (for the little ones, 7-12), a two week program (also 7-12) and a four week program (12-18). It sounds scary, sending a sever-year old away for summer camp, and sometimes they do get homesick, but generally, they have a great time and learn all kinds of new stuff, even about themselves.

  38. My two kids went away for two weeks to a summer theater camp for years, and they loved it intensely. They looked forward to it all year long. They’re both in college now, but they still have many of their camp friends. My son found what will be his future career while in camp – theatrical lighting. He’s currently majoring in that in college. I used their away-time to practice for being an empty-nester. I enjoyed that time, but I also loved picking them up from the camp bus at the end of the two weeks. The kids learned very valuable life skills, and came home more mature every year. I wish I’d gone to camp myself!

    1. I LOVE that your son found his his vocation because of his involvement in summer camp theater. I, myself, was always in the play! (It got me out of General Swim everyday! 😉

  39. I totally agree that it’s ridiculous how some parents are put off by the subject. If someone were to say that to me, all I would hear is: “Well, I never want my child to have fun or be independent-especially not without me guiding their every move.” That’s ridiculous! I’m 17 and I wish I would have been able to go to summer camp. I don’t know if there are any for teens my age. The money would be an issue too. *sigh*

    1. While you are on the older end of being a camper, you should look into being a camp counselor or a counselor in training (CIT)… you can get paid for going to camp. yes there is responsibility, but being a camp counselor is fun too. Look into it… there wouldn’t be the money issue then.

      1. I have a blog coming on that one, too! You are one step ahead of me! 🙂

  40. I went to summer camp at least once and it was a good experience for me. Sadly, what you say is true – it’s partly because we’ve evolved into a sue-happy society (no wonder trial lawyers are getting rich) and partly because parents are terrified of their children being at the mercy of nature.

    I stumbled across this post by accident when looking for something else, but it got me thinking. I had spoken to some people recently about this because of the 1977 movie “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown.” The Peanuts gang in that movie goes out into the wilderness for a rafting race – and the comments parents today say about it are similar to what you hear parents say about children going to summer camp overnight. They are terrified of their children getting mauled by a bear or drowning in the lake.

  41. Overall, camp is a great experience that helps kids become more independent.

  42. Thank you for your great article especially for parents who have young children. I was so surprised after I saw so many comments on this article. I also want to send my children to summer camp but I always hesitate because of my consideration on their security. Is my hesitation natural or something to be changed?

    1. James:

      I am glad you found this entry that is filled with people who have had positive camping experiences. i know that the MEDIA makes it seem like there are so many things to be terrified of, but really summer camp (and even daily living) is very safe — and, as you can see — many people credit overnight camp with helping them to make them into the people they are today: Strong, independent, people. Who wouldn’t want that for their children?

      That said, I do think one has to carefully investigate the camp you are considering sending your children to — especially learn about their hiring practice (how they hire their staff, where they get their applicants, what their qualifications need to be, minimum age requirements). You want to know how you could get in touch with your child if you has an emergency, as well as how they handle homesickness, medical issues, discipline, bedtime rituals, etc. Honestly, if you can meet a camp director and believe that you child will be in good hands, everything else is easy and you can rest easy knowing that he/she will have a blast.

      The camp bus rolled out today land tonight 12 happy adults (representing 6 families) got together for dinner. It was fabulous. We adults all met each other at camp, and now all our kids go to camp together. It’s a really special bond and we hope we can continue to grow these tight friendships so they might last a lifetime.

  43. I’ve met to many people of my generation who have never been camping, and when they go they can’t let go of their technology. I support parents who take their children camping or send them to camps, you go!

  44. A couple of months ago we took our children camping for the first time. I must say that I was completely taken aback by how they took to it, we had an absolute wonderful time without technology. They ran around, played, told themselves ghost stories and fell right to sleep with no fuss at all. I was completely prepared to load up in the middle of the night and head home if they got freaked out in any way, but that proved to be completely unfounded. My children are rather young, so this was a definite possibility. All for the meek sum of $30.00 for a new tent from craigslist and $25.00 for a campsite rental for the evening. We are all looking forward to many more comping trips and eventually enrolling the kids in summer camps. Thanks for your article.

    Michael…

  45. Oooh, I want to be all of you. Blog writer & commenters alike, so brave and willing to let your kids go. I may be guilty of being the mom that responds with “I could never do that!” But it is not said with a judgement on your choice. It is a very real statement about mine. I am not imagining pedophiles hanging around the showers though. I am actually imagining a teary phone call from a homesick kid. And my intellectual need to have said child stick it out fighting with my emotional need to go and rescue. I am not imagining a drowning either. I am actually imagining a child loving camp more than home and begging to stay for even longer. Knowing we could (& should?) allow this independence and growth, but not being willing to sacrifice more time away from the family. My comment about not being able to send my child to camp, has little to do the kids and even less to do with your choice, it is incredibly selfish and all about me! So I wish you all well and hope your kids have incredible camp experiences….but, please, do ask them not to boast about it to my kids, as they would really love to go, and I COULD NEVER DO THAT! 😉

    1. Dear expressmom:

      I have to tell you, I KNOW that you speak for a bunch of people who have not chosen to speak here. And I appreciate your honesty. Frankly, I expected to hear a whole heck of a lot more negative comments — tales of woe about homesickness, falling into ravines, getting hepatitis, staph infections and (gasp) head lice. I have approved every comment that has come my way. I do wish that you would take the time to read and re-read your comments that you have written here.

      We all so love our children, but part of loving them is letting them go. It’s like . . . you give your kids swim lessons so they can learn to swim, right? But then you never take them near the water because they MIGHT drown or they MIGHT NOT be able to make it to the other side of a pool. Well, I look at it like this, you have to trust that you have given them the lessons and that they can swim! So then you have to take the floaties off and let them try! It is scary for them too . . . but wonderful as well: An amazing sense of accomplishment and confidence is born out of doing something that one has never done before.

      Summer camp is kind of like that: You let them go (maybe just for a week) knowing they are going to be okay, that they are going to come home to you. And yes, they will have incredible experiences without you. Entire days will go by unaccounted for. They won’t be able to tell you what they did or who they did it with or what they ate. But they do need to know what life without parents is like because mommies can’t always be there for their children. I mean, we can’t live forever. Why don’t you want your kids to swim?

  46. I LOVED Camp Tanasi (Girl Scout camp in Norris, TN) as a kid, and then I went back as Asst. Program director as an adult for a couple of summers. (I’m a teacher, so summers off). I think it’s a great experience for just about anybody, even if your child isn’t too sure at first. . . look around for a camp that does something they’re interested in–there’s all kinds: typical summer camp, horses, sports, dance, art, academic, etc. One summer I was gone for all but one week at girl scout, church, art, & then an academic camp!

    When I worked at Camp Tanasi, we did a shorter session for rising 1st – 3rd graders, 3 nights. The littlest ones were NEVER homesick (I got to deal with homesick, so I’m sure). It was always the 9 & 10 year olds that would get homesick at night. The 6-8 year olds usually wanted to stay the rest of the week. I always wondered if it was something about the age & not being homesick, or if it is the sort of 6-8 year old that parents are comfortable sending overnight that are never homesick.

    Not a parent yet, but I’ll definitely be sending my kids when they’re old enough!

  47. Congrats on the front page feature! 🙂 I went to overnight camp as a kid, once for two weeks and once for three. Didn’t do me any irreparable harm, (besides losing a pinky) but definitely built character…

  48. I went away to camp almost every year from the earliest age allowed until I was in high school. It was a valuable experience for a kid like me, who was very shy and friendless most of the time, to be able to walk into an environment where nobody knew me. I could rebuild myself as the person I knew I was inside. The person I am today.

    Of course, there were little moments…mostly because my dad sat on the board of directors for the camp, and I knew I couldn’t get away with anything at all, especially the year my older brother was a counselor. There is something to be said for letting sibs experience time away from one another as well as with each other!

    I will be really keen to get my boys to camp – if for no other reasons than nights under the stars, games of capture the flag, being freaked out by the snapping turtles, and hearing about the ghost of the young girl that haunts the director’s lodgings. I also know that I’ll have to look harder, with one who is autistic, to find that *right* experience for each of them.

  49. Overnight camp was one of the best experiences in my life. It helped me become the person I am today. Both my husband and I went to/worked at camp for many years. We felt that overnight (or sleepaway for those of you who aren’t from Upstate NY) camp was the one of the best ways we could provide our daughter with the opportunity to develop her independence and to experience the “freedom” to grow in a way that we just can’t give her at home.

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