Since many of us will be sending our children off to either day camp or overnight camps in a few months, I thought I would share my own experience of “letting go” when my twin boys embarked on their first 2 week sleep away camp last summer.
Overnight camp is a big deal for many of us (parents and children alike) and letting go is hard to do! It was something I thought about for a couple of years. When should I let them go? How do I know which camp will be a good fit? Will the experience be fun and safe? What if one gets homesick or hurt? These were a few of the many questions that raced through my mind.
I asked the boys from time to time when they thought they would be ready for overnight camp. They weren’t sure but assured me they were always up for an adventure. I thought by the time they were in upper elementary school, it would be the right time. Their love of the outdoors along with the independence and maturity they displayed led us to believe it was time.
My husband and I always knew we wanted them to experience sleep away camp. We never experienced this growing up but were confident we wanted it for our children. The thought of adventure, nature at its finest in our beautiful state of Colorado, meeting new friends from near and far, working with others, and problem solving new situations were experiences that would empower our boys to become leaders, take risks and build self-esteem. Many friends I spoke with who attended summer camps had such vivid memories of these experiences.
When I started researching some of the sleep away camps, I looked for specific activities that my boys were interested in doing. I learned more by reading camp websites and making phone calls inquiring about things that were important to us. I listened to other moms share their thoughts and experiences about the camps their children attended including one of my dearest friends who had been telling me about a camp she and her siblings attended as children. She was so passionate about this camp that her eyes welled up each time she spoke about it. Finally, the decision was made. The deposit was sent. Our family watched a camp video showing the amazing adventures they would have during their two weeks. My husband told the boys he wanted to go with them because it looked like such fun! We spoke about it from time to time so they would anticipate the experience and this particular camp sent something in the mail every month to our boys inspiring them of the adventures to come.
When the day came to drop them off to their venture, the car packed to capacity with equipment, I was sick to my stomach. How could I let them go? I couldn’t help but think of what the day would be like when dropping them off to college. I quickly dismissed that thought reassuring myself I had many years to prepare for that time. As we drove away past the gorgeous acreage of the Colorado landscape, the horses, the tents and yurts, the pool, and the “literally” happy campers, tears welled in my eyes at the idea of letting them go.
When we welcomed them home two weeks later, my boys returned with huge smiles, seemed so relaxed and content, a bit taller and chomping at the bit to share with us their endless stories of adventure. I smiled to myself. Although letting go is difficult to do the experience benefitted not only my children but us in realizing its vital role in teaching our children about life, independence and going out into the world and making it on their own.
Helpful Tips In Choosing An Overnight Camp
- Be sure your children are ready to be on their own physically and emotionally.
- Research camp websites.
- Call the individual camps and ask questions that are important to you.
- Discuss with friends/acquaintances re: their own experiences with camps their children attended (pros/cons).
- Ask your child what types of activities they’d wish for in a camp and make sure the camp offers some or most of them.
- Consider duration of the overnight camp, cost, distance, mission of the camp, staff training, programming, etc.
- Have your children watch videos or read brochures about the camp.
- Attend a meeting for the camp (some camps visit the Denver Metro area and hold informational meetings during the year).
- Schedule overnight camp with a good friend. This may help your child be more confident and knowing that a friend is close by.
- Trust your gut.
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