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SleepAway Camp: A Stepping Stone for Independence & Responsibility?

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Summer. I find myself wanting to re-create my idyllic childhood summers for my children. Isn’t that human nature, parenting nature, perhaps pure Mother Nature that drives us to re-create for our children what was good in our childhoods, while also adding in what we didn’t have?

I always wanted to go to summer camp, sleepaway camp to be exact. My husband too. Whether it was financial restraints, or just not on our parents’ radar, sleepaway camp wasn’t part of the summer recipe. It’s not that I’m complaining. I was blessed with the perfect childhood summers. I spent weeks at the Jersey shore, time in Pennsylvania with grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins, all while spending my everyday summer time in my then hometown in Connecticut. Mornings were spent at swim lessons, followed by the library, and then long, hot, lazy afternoons at the pool. Capped by neighborhood nighttime fun of Kick-the-Can, Witch’s Hour, Spud . . . catching a few of the hundreds of fireflies . . . which later transformed themselves into a temporary lantern for my room. The ice cream truck sang its welcomed song every night, as we paused our street-centered kickball game for our favorite frozen delight. Who could want more? Certainly not me. I just want to re-create it for my kids . . . and then some. Like summer sleepaway camp.

I’ve read that kids who go to sleepaway camp more fully develop some of the all-important, life-lasting characteristics of things like responsibility and independence. Some even go as far to say that college and employer recruiters find those who have attended sleepaway camp to be some of the more probable candidates to succeed. Check out what the Huffington Post says.

But that’s not why we took our son to camp. Don’t get me wrong; that’s certainly a bonus. But it really revolved around that (natural?) desire to “give him a little more than we had.” But I can see it – the responsibility, independence, interpersonal development, conflict resolution, confidence- and leadership-builders that can come out of sleepaway camp. It all came to light when my son and I were reviewing the “daily camp schedule.”

“8:15. Clean Up Cabin Time.”
He said.

Followed by,
“Every day?”

Yep, I thought, as I tried hard to hide my smile. Every day.

It immediately reminded me of the slob-turned-neat-nick I had become after about 2 days in my undersized freshman college dorm room. Let’s just say if I didn’t hang up my clothes right away, my tiny, shared dorm room was a mess. It was that small. Kind of like my son’s camp cabin quarters, shared with his 9 bunkmates and 2 counselors. Upon taking him to camp, I quickly surveyed his new-personal-space-of-the-week: about 10 inches under the bed and about 18 inches radius around him. Won’t take him too long to develop some responsibility for his things, along with consideration of others. Not to mention the independence that naturally comes from a week away from home.

Some people even say their kids return home, and the first thing they do is make their bed.

I’ll let you know.

Until then, I see a few fireflies lighting up the summer night . . .

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