Do you want to go to frontier camp this year? I texted my son. My son, who has a cell phone and rides the bus and comes home to an empty house. Who towers over his twelve-year old buddies and can look me straight in the eye.
No! Frontier camp is for little kids and it’s stupid. I want to go to engineering camp, he texts back and I have to sit down for a minute. Engineering Camp? Who wants to go Engineering Camp?
I never got to go to summer camp – but things were different, then. We were free to roam the neighborhood, ride bikes, explore unsupervised. Our boundaries were city blocks and busy streets. A good day was my best friend and I pretending we were racing on imaginary wild mustangs through the park, galloping as fast as we could, shouting “Hiya, Wildfire! Whoa, Shadow!” or playing Charlie’s Angels until we got into a fight over who got to be Jill. (I was ALWAYS Sabrina.) The best shot we had at summer camp was selling enough Girl Scout cookies to get a free week at camp Minnikaikai.
Now, my kids are as likely to spend their summers in front of the television or some other electronic device and if they go outside, they just aren’t as free to explore anymore.
I’m not okay with that.
I’ve been asked why I would choose to send my kids to camp during the day, when I am home and could spend quality time with them. Some see it as a waste of money and opportunity. Unless I am willing to accept a summer of fighting utter lethargy from my children, I believe it capitalizes on both. Here’s why:
Saving money on child care is expensive. The summer day camp where I send my children costs roughly the same as daycare for an infant. It seems pricey, at first – but I chose this camp because of the broad range of activities they are exposed to. They can swim all day, in a pool or a pond. They can learn horsemanship and participate in a mock “rodeo.” They hike, and climb rocks. They can join a cheerleading squad, learn the basics of Tae Kwon Do. They participate in art projects, and learn to dance. They go on field trips that would cost significantly more as a family. There is no other place that can provide them with the same range of experience for the same price, and I can choose to send them for the number of weeks that are within our budget.
Quality time is overrated. I love spending time with my kids, but do I really want to have the What Are We Going To Do conversation with them every day? It’s a conversation that is likely to turn into a battle, since they will want to do different things. We can save our energy for family outings on the weekends, and not feel guilty for letting them (and ourselves) sleep in.
Camp builds friendships. Summer camp gives my kids a chance to make friends with people they don’t live next door to. They learn that not everyone does things the same way, and that different is ok. They can expand their friend circles and hone their social skills.
The great outdoors trumps screen time. Technology adds so much to the lives of our children that we were not exposed to – but it can also be isolating. Being outdoors takes the pressure off, and just lets them be kids. They try new things and develop interests that they can take with them. They build self-confidence and independence learning new skills. Camp gives them a chance to develop leadership skills as they are allowed to direct projects and make choices for themselves.
Camp wears them out. When I pick them up at the end of the day, I know they have been active. I know because they smell, their clothes are dirty, their shoes are ruined, and they are smiling. They are hungry, and full of stories, and ready to go back the next day.
I want them to have this.
Maybe I can do a couple of weeks at Frontier camp, my son texted me, after a few minutes.
If you can find a way to earn some money before summer, maybe we can do both. Then I added, Are you sure you won’t feel like you are hanging out with a bunch of little kids?
Probably. But it’s my last year. I think I will miss it.
This generation grows up fast enough, and the real world will take them before I am ready.
I want them to have this.