On Monday’s packing post, I shared that I had been a summer camper and counselor. It was one of the most formational things I did as a young person. When I was very young (kindergarten-age), I traveled to New Mexico for summer camp for two weeks. Before you let your jaw drop about my parents sending me four hours away to another state at age 5, let me explain. I’m from a super-small town in the Texas panhandle and a fair amount of the kids I grew up with went to this camp. So, while I was going “away”, I took plenty of friends with me. In fact, my mom says I gave her a half hug and skipped over to my cabin when they dropped me off at camp.
As a college student, I helped staff the Texas 4-H Center as a Program Staff member. The lessons I learned that summer – good and bad – allowed me to grow up and appreciate so many things. I was the riflery instructor that summer, but in addition to our “specialties” the program staff did all the planning, grunt work, camp dances, singing, serving meals, you name it. No job was too big or small for us. I loved every last moment of it because it married many things I loved: 4-H, summer camp, leadership and patriotism.
It’s with that background, and perhaps a bit of bias, that I say this with confidence: Every parent should send their child to summer camp. Here’s ten reasons why.
10 REASONS TO SEND YOUR KIDS TO SUMMER CAMP
1. We all crave a fresh start. Summer camp was designed for just that. It takes the shy kid, the outcast, the extrovert, the athlete, the artist and everything in between and gives them a clean slate. It puts them in a new environment where the world really is their oyster. For me, I found I was fully myself at camp. I didn’t have all the baggage that came with school and my group of friends. In fact, some of my best lifelong friends were fellow campers.
2. Which leads me to this, camp provides an immediate way to make new friends in ways I could never do at home. I bonded with some girls over folk dancing (yeah, I could NOT have done that at the student council dance), hung with guys who dug archery (even though I was horrible at it) and learned that it was okay to cry saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Many of my fellow campers ended up following me to college and we forged a special relationship. There is something about commiserating over lake-drenched tennis shoes about how bad camp food is that people back home just never get.
3. Camp provides your child the opportunity to be independent. Free time? They get to choose! Clothes to wear that day? They choose! People to sit with at lunch? They choose! Your child learns that he is responsible for keeping up with his flashlight, remembering when morning devotionals take place and what time the chow hall opens. And, it’s all in a fairly regulated, yet safe, environment. It is a life skill children need to learn and I learned it best at camp.
4. Yes, camp encourages your child to be problem solver. Let’s see, they forgot to bring extra underwear. Looks like some get turned inside out. They forgot to pack an outfit for a special event, perhaps they can ask a friend and borrow something. You’re not always going to be there to figure life out for them. Let them learn the easy stuff first and when the hard stuff comes along, they won’t be as freaked out. Oh, y’all, I could sit and tell you STORIES about kids who were babied at home. They were clueless at camp. But, they survived and went home a little more adventurous and a lot more confident.
5. At camp, I tried so many things I was never exposed to at home. Archery, badminton, canoeing, sailing, white-water rafting, rappeling, folk dancing, public speaking, leadership experiences, meeting planning, budgeting, riflery, wakeboarding, tons of crafts and so much more. Never in a million years could my parents make the time to cart me to all those things. Yet, in a week, I experienced them all. What a gift.
6. During camp, I learned to appreciate the conveniences of home. I’m what some refer to as a “camper.” For me, roughing it is not having cable TV and a shower in my hotel room. Amazingly, I have survived, and thrived, at many a camp with less than desirable conditions. That first hot shower at home sure felt like heaven to me. And, mom’s cooking never tasted better.
7. For me, through every church camp, 4-H camp and summer camp, I left with a true mountaintop experience. I was able to see God in the details. I saw him in the friends I met, the places I traveled and the journey home. For my fellow campers out there, you know where I’m coming from on this. Camp binds you together with other people and the Holy Spirit does his thang. It is awesome.
8. It was through those experiences that I have some pretty awesome memories. It’s funny, because during closing ceremonies at my kids’ summer camp this year, I found myself singing along with all the songs. I hadn’t heard some of them in over 30 years! Sing it with me: “Pharoah, Pharoah, oh baby, let my people go. Uh, yeah, yeah, yeah.”
9. Your child learns to look up to his counselor. Not all mine were stellar, but most of them were complete rockstars. There were so many good lessons I learned from them. Even though my parents had tried to drill those lessons into my head for years, my counselors did it in a week. Obviously, my parents were thrilled. But, I was always so excited to meet a new counselor. That is a special relationship that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.
10. As parents, we have to find things to let our kids spread their wings, otherwise when they leave our home we’re doing them a disservice. For us, one of the best places for them to have a test flight was at camp. I pray you have the opportunity to send your child to camp. It is an investment we will never regret.