Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sending Kids to Camp

Adam drove a bus full of kids and youth up to camp on Monday morning.  
Adam and I both grew up going to camp and we highly value the deep impact it can have on one's life. Camp takes them out of their routine, out of their comfort zone, and they are challenged to try new things, make decisions on their own, and perhaps, have a new view on life.
Specifically, Christian camps, can have a tremendous impact during the formative years.

We both talked about how we would make a point to send our kids to camp.

And then we had a kid old enough to go. 


7 years old?! 
That's old enough to spend the night away at camp?!

For the sake of fun, here's a picture of me going to camp for one of the first years.
I'm the girl in the back wearing blue.
And yes, it really was called Pee Wee Camp.
My mom took 5 of us girls and dropped us off.
Our Rainbow Brite and CareBear sleeping bags.
I still remember the homesick wails of girls throughout those 2 nights.
And the girls that were so excited to sleep in the top bunk.....
and then those same girls that fell out of the top bunk in the middle of the night. 
I remember it being really hard to sleep.

Thankfully, Landon was super excited to go to camp. 
(He went last week)
No hesitation whatsoever, even when we told him we didn't think any of his friends from church would be going to the camp he was going to that same week.  I asked him if he still wanted to go. He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, "Mom, I'll just make friends with the other kids in my cabin."

I have a new respect for parents sending their kids to camp. 

I didn't get weepy when we dropped him off. That's just not my style.
But I did have a few internal moments of,
"How can this possibly be a good idea?!"
"This is NOT a good idea!"
"There are over 20 7-9 year olds in this cabin! And 2 counselors?! Two male college-age guys that have probably done very little childcare!?! I have trouble keeping track of my THREE children sometimes! How are they going to watch TWENTY kids?!??????"

And I quizzed him:
Me: "Landon, if they ask you if you know how to swim, what are you going to say?"
Landon: "No, I don't know how to swim."
Me: "But what if you see the cool water apparatus things and you want to go on them, but you have to know how to swim."
Landon: "I just won't be able to go on them since I don't know how to swim."
Me: "Whew. Ok. Good."
(Repeat....multiple times)

He was so excited though.  
He had packed most of his items with little instruction from me. And he did quite well.

Admittedly, I lost some sleep the next few nights he was away.  Wondering if he was sleeping good. Concerned that since I had sent him with some allergy medicine to take at bedtime that he might be too groggy to get up if he had to go to the bathroom and he might wet the bed.  That could scar him from wanting to go to camp again......forever. What if the other kids weren't being nice to him? What if he wasn't being nice to the other kids? What if he got lost? What if he got seriously injured? 
They would've called me by now......right?

But I didn't hear a word for those 3 days.

When we picked him up, he bounded in, excited to see us, and excited to tell us about his week. 
He talked much of the 40-minute ride home.
His favorite part was the Zipline.
His least favorite part was that I hadn't signed him up for the entire week.
He spent the majority of the snack shack money we had allotted him and he readily admitted that he didn't eat any vegetables the past 3 days.

 Here's a few pictures I took from his camp's Facebook pages:

So, as an encouragement to those sending their kids to camp.
Or to those that know it might be something coming up in the future. 

Just do it. 

Don't be what holds your kids back.
Don't let your apprehensions and anxiety rub off onto them.

Obviously, some kids will struggle more than what Landon did with being away from home someplace new. We know we had it pretty easy.  But as parents, we can set the pace and the attitudes in our home.  If we present camp (or other things) as an exciting opportunity - and not a scary new option - they will sense some of that.
Camp gives them the opportunity to spread their wings a little, test their decision-making, and learn about their faith away from their parents.  Plus, they generally have an enormous amount of fun.

And I assure you, as a former camp counselor, although childcare may not be a very deep item on many of their resumes, they are genuinely interested in caring for and investing in our kids.  At Christian camps, they are primarily driven by the chance to share the love of Jesus with kids. Most of them are foregoing better paying summer jobs so that they can get up in the middle of the night to take kids to the bathroom and sing funny songs with motions.  Being a counselor was one of the most stretching and rewarding times of my life.

And being a camper was right up there too.