Sleep-away Camps is Spelled, FREEDOM!

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The REAL summer camp experience is found at sleep-away camps. Make no mistake: Your child will grow in independence, experience new and exciting adventures and love, love, love seeing you at the end of his session — for all the RIGHT reasons!

(Photo Credit: Kids First Sports Center, Camp-A-Palooza Camps)

Computer camp, soccer camp, cooking camp, dance camp … and then there’s the wild and wonderful sleep-away camp. Towering over all of the local day camp adventures looms the gleaming possibility of a week or more away from home at a top-notch residential haven.

But if the thought of sleep-away camp for your child makes you anxious, you’re not alone. Plenty of today’s parents insist on keeping their kids close to home each summer in order to keep tabs on them and keep them safe. Short of bubble wrapping them, they orchestrate daily kid activities with text messages and calls throughout the day, making multiple arrangements for car rides and the next several hours worth of activities. Add everything up, and a week away at sleep-away camp may make more sense.

Sleep-away camps are the REAL camp experience your child craves.

“I don’t know who I would be without Riverview camp,” Alexandra tells me. She’s 24 and looking back, marveling. “I made my best friends there!”

Alexandra attended Riverview Camp for Girls in Mentone, Alabama from the time she was 8 until she became a counselor there at 18. In her opinion (and mine), sleep-away camp builds independence, confidence, community, and makes for adventures to remember.

In this era where parents are often accused of being helicopters hovering over their children, sending a kid to camp is the ultimate way of saying, “No, I do not hover; I know you can get along without me.”

Recognizing that your child is ready to face challenges on his own is the first step. If you feel he’s ready, he will learn self-control and empathy through a variety of experiences without you. Your child will try new foods, sing around a campfire, stay up at night chatting with a bunkful of kids with flashlights, run like the wind on “nuttybuddy” nights, overcome homesickness and hug you harder than he’s ever hugged you before when he sees you again.

The truth is, your kids need to be away from you. Loving, doting moms and dads fully engaged in the day to day of their kids’ lives end up over managing everything, striving to make everything “right” and “safe.” At camp, kids get to test new boundaries, learn new skills, discover what they can do by trial and error and do things they never have before.

No matter how hard you try to provide interesting activities at home to keep your kids occupied each summer, you just can’t replicate a real camp experience in your own neighborhood.

And while you love your kids like crazy, it’s GREAT to get a little time away from them. You’ll get plenty of “just us” time or “me” time and a teensy weensy glimpse into life the way it was before you even had children — which isn’t at all what you want, so thank goodness they’re happy at camp!

As Alexandra says with a soft look in her eyes, “I’d go back to summer camp in less than a second. Not as a counselor, but as a camper. Wow.” Susan Day 

Photo: Falcon Camp

FRIENDSHIPS: The “Secret Sauce” of Summer Camp

Pen pals (or rather, Snapchat pals) are a happy result of sleep-away camp.

“When I was 8 years old, I begged my parents NOT to send me away to camp,” says Amanda Ciani, a local mom and writer. Ciani’s also associate editor of this publication.

“My elementary school experience was one where I felt like only my best friend understood me and everyone else just thought I was weird. Why would camp be any different?” she wondered.

Looking back, Ciani smiles knowingly.

“Some of my happiest memories are from sleep-away summer camp!” she laughs.

“In my heart, I felt like no one would like me and I would be an outcast; it would be just like school.

“But at the end of my first week of camp, I begged my parents to let me stay another week because I had so much fun,” she says.

Ciani met new friends who she became pen pals with. She learned how to zip line, rock climb, ride horses, shoot a BB gun and work with a bow and arrow. Endless afternoons of crafts and dance later, the best thing she recalls was forging new friendships and being accepted for the personality quirks that often made her feel awkward at school. After her first summer, Ciani went to camp for a few weeks each summer.

“I was able to forge an identity outside of school cliques,” she says. “I made diverse friends and realized I didn’t have to have friends just like me; I made friends who were as unique as me. And I learned that I loved summer!” — Amanda Hayward

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