5 Reason’s to Send Kids to Sleep Away Camp

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I just read this online article  – a letter why a mom would NOT send her kids to sleepaway camp.

I read this right after discussing with Johanna, my wife, on the to-do list for our teenage girls who are heading to sleep away camp for a month.

This is their fourth year going, so any idea of not sending them after reading this compelling article is not going to happen.

That ship has sailed.

At first, I wasn’t going to write about kids and sleepaway camp as that might be “off-brand” for me.

I mean, it type of stuff has nothing to do with prostate, supplements or male longevity.

But then I thought, “Wait, before anything else I’m a father and having a healthy relationship with one’s kids is connected to wellness and longevity. So I am on brand.”

And here I am.

Writing this to you about kids and summer camp.

First, let me say this; Latino families don’t send their kids away for camp. Ever.

I didn’t even know sleep away camp was an option growing up.

In fact, when my mother learned our kids were in sleep away camp four years ago when this whole thing started, she was disgusted with us.

“Oh, that’s great. You like to have other people raise your kids. What’s the matter, you guys can’t raise your own kids anymore?”  – my mom

On and on and on, my mom creamed me about sending our girls away for four weeks.

How we started sending our kids to Sleep Away Camp

Everything started as sort of a joke.  Our girl’s school offered a full scholarship for a particular sleepaway camp in Maine for any student who writes the best essay.

I challenged our eldest to write the scholarship essay like this; she can sharpen her writing skills without any pressure of aiming for a grade.

I had no idea she would take on the challenge so seriously.

Then we looked at her final work together and tweaked a couple of things – mostly grammatical and typos – and handed it in.

Again, this was supposed to be for shits and giggles.

Four weeks later, they call us that our daughter won the scholarship essay contest.

We had a mixed feeling of joy, confusion, and sadness. I mean, sending our kids for a one-night sleepover is a big deal for us, imagine four weeks. Holy Crap!

And here was the kicker for us that first summer camp – there’s absolutely no communication with your kid for the full four weeks. None.

Under normal circumstances, the only form of communication is by writing letters back and forth.

As summer camp rookie parents we interpreted the daily camp pictures posted on facebook as our little girl having a horrible time, homesick, missing us terribly. On the first week, I called the camp to speak to her.

“Hi Mr. Espinosa, Um yeah um, you cannot speak to her. You have to write her a letter. Send it to this address…” – Camp counselor

Those first four weeks of camp were brutal for us.

Fast forward four years and here we are again, getting ready to send our to girls away for another four weeks.

While I enjoyed reading the online article from a seemingly amazing mom who clearly wrote it from her heart, I think sleep away camp is awesome for kids.

But only for four weeks, not longer, as I too selfishly like my kids around and enjoy the unplanned and often spontaneous events that take place. Even some of the craziness that can occur with teenage girls – I don’t mind them.

Five Reasons to Send Your Kids to Sleep Away Camp

 

  1. Kids learn how to be independent. Becoming independent at home is a challenge, not because we don’t want them to be, but because we need to keep things moving and us doing the day-to-day tasks is more efficient. They have no choice but to do things for themselves at camp – there are good life skills that come from that.

 

  1. They make what seems to be long-lasting friends with awesome kids not only from the US but kids from all over the world.

 

  1. Kids are out in nature 90% of the times, playing with animals, doing sports, setting up campfires, etc. A new study shows the healing power spending in nature and how it helps us to be happy.

 

  1. My wife and I get an opportunity to reset and reconnect. While we don’t do badly at either throughout the year, two fewer kids make it easier to catch up, set goals and have fun. Yes, we have one more kid at home, but when you have three kids, one is a piece of cake.

 

  1. They DO NOT have access to electronic devices. None. Zilch. In this day and age, that’s a huge deal. If you have children you know this, kids are super, hyperconnected to electronic devices. They learn to not just survive without it, they thrive.

While it seems real that we have limited time with our girls before they are off into the world where we’ll spend less time together, Johanna and I miss them more (and maybe appreciate them more) when they come back after four weeks of summer in Maine.

I think they get to miss their little brother and us too.

So, did you, do you or will you send your kids to sleepaway camp? Why or why not?

 

 

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by Dr. Geo

8 comments… add one
  • David 07/14/2019, 9:45 AM

    I went to camp most of my childhood since the age of 10. I worked my way up from starting at three weeks to 8 weeks of the summer. I absolutely hated it as a shy, introverted kid. It forced me to share intimacy with others my age, to explore things about myself that I hadn’t before and to develop some independence from my parents. But something happens at camp that’s magical. All of a sudden, when you least expect it, your family grows. You develop relationships with other kids your age that are never possible with school friends. You develop common bonds that are truly lifelong. And the most excruciating part of camp for me, was leaving. Fortunately, most of the kids at camp lived a reasonable distance from my home allowing for many camp reunions during the year.

    We had no electronic devices to separate ourselves from, but growing up in concrete-laden Brooklyn, it was wonderful to be surrounded by the sounds of crickets, katydids and frogs than tractor trailers, ambulances and smog.

    My child began sleepaway camp at age 8, for just a few days. I didn’t sleep the entire time! All the thoughts of what could, should, would happen without my amazing parenting skills to rescue him. But he did fine. More than fine. He loved it. He’s been going for 9 years now and he looks forward to it the whole year round.

    Although I’m not a big fan of camps that just try to keep the kids busy without any notion of teaching lifelong skills of problem-solving, team building and caring for others, my experience and my son’s has been that this is an essential part of growing up.

    I was not just a camper, but a CIT and a counselor. They were my fondest memories. And 40 years later, some of my closest friends today are those that I shared “bug juice” and campfires, poision ivy and love with. I would never dream of depriving my son of this experience. 4 weeks may not be enough . . .

    Reply
    • Dr. Geo 07/14/2019, 12:03 PM

      Excellent! Thank you for sharing!

      Reply
  • Norman Wellen 07/14/2019, 10:13 AM

    YOU ARE RIGHT ON TARGET. WE SENT OUR CHILDREN TO SLEEP AWAY CAMP & ALSO OUR GRANDCHILDREN. MY WIFE MET HER BEST FRIEND @ SLEEP AWAY CAMP WHEN SHE WAS 12 YEARS OLD. I AGREE WITH ALL YOUR STATEMENTS IN YOUR BLOG. YOUR FAMILY IS BLESSED THAT YOU ALL CAN SHARE.THIS TIME OF LIFE IT BRINGS THE FAMILY CLOSER. REGARDS

    Reply
  • ROBERT JOHNSON 07/14/2019, 10:43 AM

    That was right on! I couldn’t have said it any better. I have 4 children, 1 girl, the oldest, 3 boys. They are all grown now and I wish that we would have had the opportunity to send our kids to a summer camp. I’m sure it would have helped. I went to Boy Scout camp as a helper so it was free and learned to be with new people which later helped me when I joined the Navy when I finished high school in 1945. One of my boys joined the Navy when he was 17 and he turned out better in all ways because I believe being in a structured group early in life really improves one in becoming a ” whole person”.

    Robert Johnson, Ph.D., 1059.

    Reply
    • Dr. Geo 07/14/2019, 12:02 PM

      Thank you for sharing this Robert. I would have loved to have gone to sleepaway camp as a kid as well.

      Reply
  • Michelle Crouse 07/14/2019, 1:06 PM

    Geo…super on point! We have 3 daughters and they have been going to summer camp for 2 weeks for 9 years (oldest), 7 years (youngest).

    We were the first in either of our families to do this, along with many other parenting shifts, and the push back and implied negative comments left me wondering if this was the right thing to do (but only for the 1st summer).

    This activity is the highlight of the girls year. I ask them every year, “if you could only get 1 gift per year, what would it be?” The answer is always “summer camp!!” Followed by “please don’t say we can’t go next year”.

    Our oldest will be a senior this year & off to college before we know it. I totally agree about fostering independence from home, it’s tougher than it seems. Independence, problem solving, making smart decisions, time management and having an exit strategy are skills they need to have and cultivate so that when they leave home they’re better prepared.

    Summer camp was our first big segway into those things

    Hope you and yours have a great summer!

    Reply
    • Dr. Geo 07/14/2019, 4:44 PM

      Awesome! Thank you for commenting, Michelle.

      Reply

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