When I was maybe twelve, my mom decided that I should go to summer camp. Now, I had been to day summer camps before, where I was dropped off in the morning and then picked up in the evening to spend my night in my familiar bed. This year, however, from the catalogue of Girl Scout summer camps that my troop leader had sent home, my mom picked out a horseback riding camp and decided it sounded like a great idea for her daughter who loved horses.
Except that this camp was an overnight camp over two hours from home. A week-long, overnight camp for a girl who could barely make it through one-night sleepovers at friends’ houses down the street was a big deal.
So what are my tips for parents of kids who may dread going to an overnight summer camp? Give your child some sense of control over the situation.
As an adult, I can see that part of being a parent is pushing your child to do things outside his or her comfort zone. However, there have to be some boundaries that allow children to not have total meltdowns. Giving your child some control over a situation can make a big difference. My mom took me out shopping to fill the gaps in my supply list, and let me pick out the things that I needed. Those small choices let me feel a little bit better about the situation. One of the biggest issues I had came from the cabin I ended up staying in. I was a little bit hesitant in making a decision, so my mom barged into a cabin, threw my things down on a mattress, and introduced herself to the girls who I would be staying with before I got a chance. Meanwhile, I had been making tentative friends with the girl in the next cabin over, but by the time I had secured a bed my mom had already laid out my sleeping bag in the other cabin. Give your child the space to make decisions, and let her have a little time to be hesitant. You may think you’re doing him a favor by pushing him in the right direction, but sometimes kids can surprise you and do things by themselves.
Summer camp ended up being really fun, and I have great memories from that week spent riding horses and singing Girl Scout camp songs. I’ve always hated the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but it often does ring true. I can’t directly attribute anything in my life to that experience at summer camp, but I know that it has impacted me in ways I can’t even imagine.
What are some of your best (and worst!) summer camp memories?