Summer camps are now open for registration! As I’ve been busily planning our summer around camp dates, I’ve started to think about my own camp experience and what do I want my own kids to gain from summer camp?
Let it be said that if it were not for Girl Guides, I’m certain I would never had set foot in a tent during my childhood. My parents were creative, energetic and engaged but outdoorsy? Mom didn’t quite get an A+ for her outdoor camping enthusiasm.
With Brownies and Guides, I was introduced to a “sit-upon” (remember these?) for the campfire, s’mores and how good a hotdog could taste over an open fire, especially if you’ve been hiking forever.
Weekend Girl Guide camps were so fun that the summer after grade four, my parents sent me for a week to a Girl Guide Camp called Doe Lake. It was the first time I’d been away from home and at age 10 I was excited but very nervous. I didn’t go with a friend, but instead totally alone. I boarded a bus in a parking lot and took it up north by myself, waving frantically at my parents with my face pressed against the bus window.
Yes, that's me in the centre, waiting to board the bus, circa 1986.
My mom had read somewhere that at Girl Guide camp, girls liked to trade pins and thing-a-ma-bobs off their blue bucket Girl Guide hats. I arrived saddled with more plastic hanging gadgets than you can imagine, swaying around my head and obscuring my vision. I came home with a full head - no one traded them. I guess that was just for the brochure!
We slept in a row of sleeping bags (no air mattresses) in a big tent with a wooden base. Sleep came easily after full days with so much fresh air, tons of creativity and super activities. I was too busy and too tired to be homesick. But I recall other campers cried themselves to sleep. Camp was amazing during the day, but sometimes it could be rough at bedtime. I was proud of ten year-old me because I never cried but really, it was only because I fell asleep before I could even realise I wasn’t at home.
A highlight was the tuck shop. Remember those rustic tuck shops with an array of Mars bars and odd ‘souvenirs’? I saved my money that week. Never bought a chocolate bar but instead bought each member of my family a cheap “keepsake” to tote home in my backpack.
When the week was over, I was sad to go home. I’d had a great time and wanted to return. On the bus home, we sang songs and I sat with a bunch of girls at the back, so much different than my trip up when I’d sat nervously behind the driver.
Upon arrival in the same parking lot for drop off, I got stuck at the back of the bus as all girls were clamouring to get off ahead of me. I could see my mother pacing beside the bus, wondering why I wasn’t the first to get off. I started to bawl.
I greeted my mother in sobbing hysterics. I’m sure she thought I hated the whole week. I’d been so brave all week, focused on camping and all the fun things, but as soon as I saw my mom, I wanted, no needed, a hug from her. I wanted my bed, my home and an indoor toilet.
After I did my independent stint at Doe Lake I participated in many day camps. From horseback riding camp (where I flipped over a horse and broke my collar bone on Parents Day) to Tennis Camp to YMCA Arts & Drama camp where we put on a Gilligan’s Island show. Every camp is stamped in my lifelone memory along with its own song, like ‘100 bottles of beer on the wall’ or ‘Kumbaya’.
Camp teaches so much to kids – they find independence and confidence they didn’t know they had. Kids develop qualities they may never have the chance to grow under such watchful eyes of parents. They try things never done at home – like sleeping on the ground, throwing spaghetti, how to paddle a canoe or how to find the patience to sit by the waterfront waiting for a fish to jump up.
In today’s hyper technical world, camp is even more important. It is quite possibly the only time kids will disconnect - where else will they learn to decompress and learn about themselves and natural world around them?
My young kids enjoy day camp and when they are older and ready, I’d love to send them to an overnight camp that's not Camp Grandma. Because, let’s face it, their mother doesn’t score an A+ in outdoor adventure either.
momstown believes that the camp experience is an important one for children so is participating in the Our Kids Camp Expo Blog Hop. Yesterday's Camp Memory can be found at amotherhoodexperience. Tomorrow, the fun is happening at Our Kids Net.
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Looking for a March Break or Summer Camp for your child?
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February 26, 2012, 12:00 to 4:00pm, Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe Street, Toronto
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