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