Summer 2016 is quickly winding to a close. At the end of July, we picked up our twelve year old twin daughters at sleep away camp. They spent four weeks in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina having the time of their young lives. If at all possible, I highly recommend sending your children to sleep away camp. The experiences that they will have on their own, the friends that they will make, and the confidence in themselves that they will gain is truly live changing.
For us, it started with the movie “The Parent Trap.” Our girls watched it over and over, begging for a similar summer experience. My husband told them stories about his magical summers spent at camp in the mountains in Vermont. Although I never went to sleep away camp, I wanted my daughters to have that experience. At the same time, I worried about them being in the care of strangers and feared that they would be homesick. The summer before fourth grade when our girls were nine we sent them for a week to YMCA Camp WiWa in Apopka, Florida. It was only a 25 minute drive from our house, so if camp was a disaster or if they were horribly homesick, it would be easy to pick them up.
They had a great time. They LOVED camp.
The next summer, I wanted them to have an “all girls” camp experience at a camp steeped with tradition where they would feel a real sense of belonging. After a lot of internet research and input from friends, we settled on an all girls camp in North Carolina. Admittedly, it’s a huge financial stretch, but I believe that sending our girls to camp is one of the very best experiences that we are giving them. The rising fifth graders that we dropped off that first summer in North Carolina were not the same girls that we picked up.
At pick-up, our girls seemed older and taller to me. My husband agreed that there was a subtle change, difficult to pinpoint. At moments it seemed to be a maturity or maybe an air of confidence and self-sufficiency. It was as though we were being treated to a momentary peek into the future. As we drove home, they effortlessly slipped back into their “home” personalities. But inside somewhere their “camp” personalities lingered.
Camp drop-off is never easy for me, knowing that the only communication from our girls for four weeks will be the few letters to us that they are required to write. Those letters are treasures; I save each one. There are no phone calls home. We are treated to an occasional photo on the camp website showing them having a fabulous time with their fellow campers. Camp pick-up always validates our sacrifices to send them there. We pick up two young ladies who are confident, happy, and bursting with stories about their adventures.
I love that my girls spend time away from us having experiences that belong only to them. During the month that they are gone I keep reminding myself of our ultimate parenting goal, “roots and wings.”
This summer our iPhone obsessed tweens spent thirty nights in the woods completely disconnected. No phone, no TV, no Internet. And they loved every minute. They can’t wait to go back next summer.
This may seem like an ill-timed post at the end of the summer, but I would suggest researching now if you are considering sleep away camp next summer. Some fill up quickly, and many offer discounts for early enrollment. The time that our girls are away also gives my husband and me time to recharge, reconnect, and be better parents to them when they come home.