Summer camp has been on my mind lately. Usually at this time of year I’m thinking about my kids far away at camp, missing them and knowing that it’s all worth it because they’re having the time of their lives. I lived for camp and always counted the days until I could get on that bumpy school bus, hopefully fight off my motion sickness for the entire trip and then arrive at paradise.
My camp was not a fancy camp. We had washhouses with very poor plumbing, no bathrooms attached to our cabins. Forget about horseback riding. That was at the camp that we scorned the most. The food was nothing to write home about, unless we wanted to give our mothers heart attacks. There was always a good chance that there would be mice in your cabin. On the occasions that we got to watch a movie in the old barn we knew that the bats would swoop down on us, which turned every film into a horror movie. It was terrifying, exciting and great fun. Some counselors cared about the kids and many, not so much. Your cabins were always made up of a mixture of kids you liked and those you did not. The girls we didn’t like had a way of adding drama to our summers. So did the boys in our co-ed section.
When I look back at those summers and try to figure out exactly what made them so special I think I have to say that the main thing, at least for me was just the freedom of it all. Laughing and just being with your friends all day and night, spending your days swimming, canoeing, joking around and being outdoors. Adults were few and far between. It was a world ruled by teenagers. What’s not to love about that? Rules were easy to obey. Swim with a buddy; make your bed as best as you can and at the end of the day go to bed and stay there when the lights go off. Best of all you got to do it all surrounded by friends. Punishments don’t feel so bad when they’re endured in the company of friends.
Fast-forward roughly 30 years and now it’s time to send the Artiste off to camp. There are a few differences now. As we live in a northern community for our son to be welcome and accepted we were advised that he should attend a camp in Nova Scotia (around 2000km. away from where we live). This means a car ride followed by a plane ride followed by a bus ride. The concerns of distance aside there is another concern, I remember what a world run by teenagers is like. As a parent it’s a very scary place. We made it through that first summer and six more after that. All of my kids love camp, which is almost too good to be true. We have been out to the camp for many visitors’ days (my favourite day of the year) and I have come to the conclusion that as staff members, teenagers have greatly improved since my days at camp. Or as my husband says, maybe it has to do with the camp’s philosophy. Whatever the reason I love these young adults who make my children feel welcome and appreciated. I also love seeing that they are making friendships that will last their entire lives.
Living here, I can’t help but notice that overnight summer camp does not seem to be the norm as it is amongst Jewish communities. I’ve given it a lot of thought and have come up with different reasons as to why it’s so common for us to send our kids there but no one reason sticks out in my mind. Maybe it is some form of survival instinct in which we want our kids to manage without us, learning to form tight bonds with others. Maybe, because for the most part we are city dwellers we just appreciate what a summer of fresh air and activity can do for our children. What do you think?