On the second day of kindergarten, my oldest child (and first I had sent to “big school”) looked at me and said, “You don’t need to walk me in today.” I can still clearly see in my mind, like it was yesterday, that little girl with her backpack on walking confidently into the door of the school, while I watched as long as I could from car line.
That independent spirit and confidence is something I’m very proud of in Caroline, and it’s still very much a part of who she is. It’s part of what makes it somewhat easy for me to leave her at camp, where she is this week. Last Sunday, we all drove up to Banner Elk to drop Caroline off at Holston Presbytery Camp and Retreat Center, and once we had her registered and her bed made, she couldn’t get us out of there fast enough.
In these days of cell phones and texting, it’s hard for many parents to imagine a week without talking with their children. And while I do miss her, and wonder how she’s doing and worry about her just a little (especially because I’ve been stalking the weather radar and know it’s been raining A LOT in Banner Elk), I know going to camp is a great experience for her. Here are a few reasons why I like camp. (Blog for later: Caroline’s reasons why she likes camp.)
It gives her time to experience life without me and her dad hovering over her. Sure, she spends eight hours a day on her own at school, but camp is different. This week at camp it is her responsibility to choose which activities she wants to do, pick out what food she wants to eat and how much of it, figure out whether to get a shower at night or in the morning (that’s hoping that she is getting a shower every day) and keep up with all of her belongings. For Caroline, it gives her a sense of being free, but for me I know that it’s one of the small steps kids need to help prepare them for the many responsibilities and choices of adulthood. I’ve also read where overnight camp is a great way to get kids ready for college, especially in these days of helicopter parenting, something Carolyn Butler writes about in this Washington Post article.
Camp forces her to make new friends. Granted, she went to camp with a small group of kids she knows from church, which is good for helping her feel comfortable being away from home for a week. But she’s also living with a whole lot of new people for a week, and learning how to get along with a bunch of different personalities. What could be a better preparation for middle school?
She gets to do a lot of fun things we wouldn’t necessarily be doing at home in the summer. The camp where Caroline is offers canoeing and kayaking, ziplining, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Who knows what she will choose to do, but I’m hoping she gets them all in!
Camp provides a way to strengthen her faith and Christian beliefs outside of church. This was a sort of unexpected benefit I learned after Caroline went to camp last year. All of the things above apply to any camp, whether it’s sports, academic or dance. But the cool thing about going to a church camp is they set aside time for Bible study, led by the young, 20-something counselors. It is such a great opportunity for Caroline to get to learn from and just be around these people, and not just me and the people at church who might seem “old” to her.
We write letters! Or at least, I do, and I’ve made Carter write some too. Let’s face it, letter writing is practically dead. It started with unlimited long distance, but emails and texting have contributed even more. But I love letters, because they not only provide a glimpse into a person’s life, like short little snippets of history, but they can be held on to and saved. Just look at something like the book of letters between Robert and Elizabeth Barret Browning and you can see how important these pieces of paper can be. Even in my own family, my grandmother wrote letters every week while she was living in Texas, full of information on how her growing family was doing for her mother back in North Carolina. Thankfully those were kept, and now all of the children have a bound copy. My two letters to Caroline this week are nothing compared to Grandma’s letters home, but it does make me happy when she comes home and I see them and letters from her grandmothers folded up in the corner of her suitcase, knowing it gave her something tangible to know we were thinking of her while she was away.
Caroline comes home from camp tomorrow, and I can’t wait to see her smiling face and hear about her adventures. A week is long enough for her to be away for now. I know that the time will come, sooner than I want it to, when I am making her bed and leaving her for an entire semester at college and not just one week at camp. So while this week-long experience is great for Caroline in so many ways, it’s probably good preparation for me too. Baby steps.