Why I send my son to camp

Summer camp always seemed weird to me and made me think of horror movies like Friday the 13th.  I never imagined sending my children to camp, especially since I’m a stay-at-home mom who never went to camp.  Even after writing down the numerous summer activities I engaged in as a child, I still ended up in August, bored and halfheartedly unearthing crafts, forgotten toys and trying and failing to create exciting games before succumbing to laziness and missing school once again.

Finding summer activities never used to be a challenge for me.  I had small children and belonged to a club where the weeks were sufficiently scheduled with fun kid activities and a break in the mommy monotony.  All my friends stayed at home, too, so I could meet up with them at a park or someone’s house.  Visiting the pool every so often seemed enough.  But I made a decision last year to send my son J to summer camp, and I’m slowly but surely becoming a camp parent convert.

Playmate dilemma

My main reason for sending him is that his sister E attends summer school.  Since she’s not around, he doesn’t have a reliable, fall-back-upon playmate.  Planning to go anywhere in the morning must be brief and local in order to meet her afternoon bus on time.  I’d go to the pool, hop in, hop out, time to go.

J’s playmate dilemma comprises an absence of consistency and convenience. Most of the neighborhood kids are fair-weather friends.  Sometimes, he plays with them; sometimes, he’s ignored or feels intimidated.  He’s friends with the girl next door, but I don’t want him to wear out his welcome or take advantage of her mom’s generosity.  I feel bad enough that she entertains all the neighborhood kids! His school friends live across town, and my friends’ kids live a distance and don’t provide daily playing opportunities.  At camp, he makes new friends from school and our town, expanding his social circle and keeping him occupied.

Our local pool doesn’t open until noon, so my early bird catches the worm and then stays idle.  What would I do with him before the pool opens? Preparation including sunscreen application takes what, 5 minutes?  Tell me again why I’m a stay-at-home mom?!?

During the day, Active J is happily tired before bed. Inactive J mopes and sighs, claiming he’s bored.  I encourage him to play outside or with toys, read, daydream, but it doesn’t sate the active beast.  By going to camp, chockfull of creative activities, he avoids the inevitable summer doldrums.  Once August arrives, it’s a welcome respite and last hurrah for the summer, not yawn of boredom.

Getting things done

Okay, you caught me…Another reason I send him? I need time to get things done and recharge without children! Usually, they’re in school when I clean, finish errands and handle daily responsibilities, so I’m accustomed to working solo.  Getting things done alone in the morning frees up my afternoon to spend with them wherever we end up.  I crave time to recharge and remember why I became a parent in the first place, instead of stressing about responsibilities and struggles.  If Mama’s happy, everybody’s happy! While at camp, J learned how to play kickball and other sporty games, and worked on crafts.  Let me level with you…I’m not the crafty mom who can whip up something out of nothing, and I’m an uncoordinated mess at most sports. I cannot complete projects that go beyond my craft comfort zone of coloring, and I’m pretty sure I could have benefited from physical therapy regarding my deficient athleticism.

Camp removes the lure of technology by channeling that energy into healthier and more amusing pursuits.  How healthy or educational is it to spend so much time glaring at an electronic screen? (As I cower behind my laptop…) Wait until you’re 40 and possibly getting paid to compromise your eyesight and wrist strength.

According to an article I read, without the hovering presence of parents, kids may surprisingly try out activities you never anticipated them to try.  At camp, it’s solely up to them if they want to experience something new or are content to stand comfortably on the sidelines until they’re ready.  The parental pressure of trying to impress and not fail in a new endeavor disappears.  Once kids master that new skill, of course they will want to show off and receive your praise, but only when they’re good and ready.

The lazy, hazy days of summer are also a time for growth and new experiences.  Going to camp, along with all the usual summer fun, could turn a dreary “What Did You Do Over the Summer” essay to an action-packed, enviable one.

M.B. Sanok is a South Jersey mom and a blogger for JerseyMomsBlog, where this post originated.

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