Sending Your Kids to Camp Can Help You Grow Up -- As a Parent
Our family just returned from a week-long camp at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center in Northern California. This is our 11th year of what has become our family tradition.
When we arrived at Mt. Hermon for the very first time, our kids were only ages 4- and almost 2-years-old. We were all at Main Camp together in one cabin, sharing two beds amongst the four of us. We ate every meal together and played ping pong until late at night. We swam at the pool and hung out at the Fountain for ice cream and snacks with new friends. Except for the times when the kids went off to their own camp programs, we were constantly together and built memories as a family.
As the years went by and our kids grew, it became increasingly uncomfortable to share beds, even if they were queen-size. They became a little more independent, roaming the camp ground with their friends like pack animals and hanging out at the Fountain until the wee hours. They found other friends to sit with at meals and even had a sleepover or two at friends' cabins, all within the safe confines of Mt. Hermon.
Then, a few years ago, the day finally came when Josh had to go to a separate campground for junior high campers. Though it was only a few miles away, he was going to be on his own for an entire week for the first time. Like it or not, he had to adjust to sleeping in his own bunk in a cabin with seven other boys and a counselor. He was not looking forward to it.
On the appointed visitation day, we arrived to find our junior higher standing at the end of the parking lot craning his neck, eagerly awaiting the arrival of his parents who were 30 minutes late. After a long hug, he showed us his cabin, introduced us to his counselor, and gave us a tour of his camp -- dusty and small compared to Main Camp. He said he was having fun but we could tell he was holding back tears. If it wasn't for the counselor who invited him to go play a game, Josh would probably have hopped in our trunk to escape back to our cabin.
Fortunately, he sounded much more upbeat when we picked him up on Saturday. "Meg, you are going to love junior high camp," he declared to his sister who was enjoying being an only child that week at Main Camp, a luxury afforded only to our firstborn for the first two years of his life.
We weren't quite so concerned about Meg going off to her own camp the next year, partly because her brother had already paved the way and also because she is a natural social butterfly. Sure enough, she enjoyed her independence immensely. This summer was her second time away at her own camp, and she remarked that it was "the best week of my life!" Yes, all of her twelve years.
What caught us off guard, however, was how lost David and I were going to feel when we first became kid-less. We wandered around Main Camp the first few days in a daze. Before long, however, we got quite used to being just the two of us again and was almost sad that the week was ending.
And we will continue repeating this tradition for at least a few more years. Both kids love their youth camps so much that visitations are now very brief. "Hi mom and dad! Thanks for coming. Well, bye!" We're glad.
We learn a lot about God while we are at Mt. Hermon, but most of all it has been a great lesson in parenting. We hold them close, then we gradually let go with each passing year and watch our own children build faiths of their own. Within the safe haven of Mt. Hermon, surrounded by other parents leading the way or walking alongside us, David and I have learned to grow as parents.
What are your summer family traditions? Tell me here or I'll see you at the Fountain!