As told through the eyes of someone who is glad to know…
By Dena Weiner Junior Girls Division Leader
As you prepare to send your son or daughter off to camp for his or her first summer, you must have so many things rolling around in your head. What will camp be like? How will they thrive without me? Will they make new friends? So many of the things you may be concerned about, turn into the triumphs of a new camper. What you will learn after a few phone calls, vague letters and tight “No, I won’t let go” hugs on Visiting Day, is that the independence they gain will be the most important thing they bring home.
So what are nine things they will learn at Camp Starlight this summer? Let’s start with the first day they get off the bus.
I bet you didn’t know that….
…as soon as their feet touch the grass, they are immediately welcomed by hugs, cheers and circles of new friends. This teaches children that camp is fun and friends are all around us. They also learn that the adults at camp are always their biggest cheerleaders away from home.
…camp is not only a place for kids, but there are others that live on the beautiful hills and lake of camp and they are happy to share their habitat with a zip code worth of people. Camp’s canopy is nothing short of amazing. Every child will take at least one nature hike. On this hike they learn about the flora and fauna of this incredible scenery. They will learn to appreciate what they see and they might even learn to hug a tree, save a spider or listen to the sounds that surround us.
…teeth will get brushed. It might seem like an impossible task to get 10 eight year olds to brush their teeth twice each day, but somehow this mission of importance commences each morning and night. Somehow counselors find time to brush hair, wash faces and hands. Eventually these “chores” become badges of personal growth.
…everyone finds something to eat at camp. Even the pickiest of eaters finds something to enjoy. Sitting down to a meal with a family of friends is a valuable experience that creates something magical. Children learn that talking about your day, setting table routines and having a place to just come together creates an environment that is hard to replicate. It is this feeling of give and take that helps children calmly break bread.
…they will make a new friend at camp. It will probably not be the person you expected. As parents we spend so much time planning their social calendars that we structure their friendships. At camp they get to choose who makes them smile and laugh. It is such a valuable component to being a new camper in a safe and supported place. It teaches them how to seek out the qualities in another person that are important to them. It is these friendships that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
…new interests will be developed. You might hear your son or daughter tell you that they like playing guitar, doing magic, hurling a lacrosse ball or sewing. They spend 10 months dabbling in extra-curricular activities and 2 months choosing other ones. Where else are you going to learn how to water ski? Every day’s excursions are priceless events. Trying new things teaches children to expect the unexpected and thrive outside out of their comfort zones.
…sunscreen gets applied, nails get clipped, knots get untangled scrapes get cleaned up. Even the Tooth Fairy comes to camp. Children learn that other people besides their moms and dads care for them too. Camp Starlight has lots of “mom & dads.” They are the people who make sure that no stone is left unturned and every need is met.
… sleep happens. Reluctant sleepers who crawl into your beds at night learn how to be self-soothers. Call it exhaustion from a long fun day or excitement for tomorrow’s surprises, but when the head OD checks in to make sure that bunks are quiet and asleep, they really are. Not a peep is heard except the sweet snores of mouth breathers. Children learn that they can put themselves to bed and this precious lesson is worth more than gold.
…talking face-to-face instead of through snaps, texts and instas is possible and fun. Face time will have a whole new meaning. Jacks and knock hockey will be played, songs will be sung and your child will learn to exist without an electronic device. They will even learn to remember fun times without a selfie.
What do these 9 lessons add up to? The self-sufficiency they learn becomes their self-esteem. How long can we cut their steak for them, scrub the shampoo out of their hair or buckle their seatbelts? They have to learn how to do these things by themselves. Remember how much we clapped and cheered when they took their first steps? Remember how much they clapped for themselves? We celebrated their independence. Camp parallels this experience. So as you unpack a summer’s worth of dirty socks in August, think about the steps those socks took. After the laundry is washed, the towels put away and the woodworking projects displayed on the mantel, the one thing that you won’t see in their trunks is their personal growth. You will notice it over time. Your eight year old will ask you for stuffed shells for dinner, they might call a friend in another state, they will brush their teeth without being nagged, and they might even clear their own plates. Consider these priceless gifts as you get them ready for the best summer of their lives!