Sleep Away Camp...21 (Extra) Days of Memories...
My wife and I just spent yesterday at visiting day at our two kids sleep away camp in eastern Pennsylvania. It was a great day because we have not seen either of them in the past four weeks. This particular camp does not allow telephone calls at all as I believe they think it may cause homesickness in the children, so my wife and I have been surviving on the receipt of handwritten letters and seeing pictures posted multiple times daily on the camp website hoping to catch a glimpse of either one of the kids enjoying one of the many daily activities or just relaxing with friends.
Last summer, as both kids were in the middle of completing their 5th year of day camp, we asked our 9 year old son if he wanted to try sleep away camp because many of his friends from school were starting to attend them. He continually said no. Over Thanksgiving dinner this past November, he all of a sudden makes a proclamation that he wants to try it. Not to be outdone by her big brother, my daughter who is now 8, also says she wants to try it. So my wife starts the investigative process of sleep away camps in Pennsylavania and New York, and after about 8 weeks and attending one camp fair, we felt that we had picked the right camp for our children.
As we dropped off the children four weeks ago, we were both sad and happy about it. Both kids could not wait for us to depart so they can get on with camp, but we were sad to see that they did not seem to need us as much anymore as well as that we would not see them for 28 days when we were ready to pick them up.
About ten days ago, we received a call from the camp director who wanted to let us know that both kids had come to him independently to request if they could stay for the remaining three weeks of camp. After a few days of canceling their prior commitments as well as being allowed to speak with them on the telephone, my wife and I realized that this would be a great opportunity for them. In their voices, we heard sounds of confidence, maturity and happiness that made us realize that our selfishness of wanting to spend time with our kids was trumped by our ability to extend their experience by three more weeks and seeing them yesterday was just a reinforcement that we made the correct decision.
Both my wife and I attended camp and worked at them throughout our respective childhood. For the past five years, I have always told people that as I dropped the kids off at their camp each morning, I wish I could park my car and stay at camp forever. Being able to allow the kids to stay an extra 21 days at camp could add a lifetime of memories and friendships for each of them and as their parent, I feel that I am the lucky one as I could see how happy and appreciateive they were that we were able to make this happen for them.