We Are Both Right

Discovering the Joys of Summer Camp

What's your version of summer camp for the kids -- at home or away? ©icekitty37/stock.xchng

My kids tell me summer camp is fun. And from my perspective in the parking lot dropping them off every morning, I would have to agree.

To be absolutely truthful, I’m actually a little jealous of them. OK, a lot jealous.

I never had that type of camp experience. When I was growing up — at least in my town and in my circle of friends — camp was a foreign concept. We had backyards, we had moms who stayed home, we had neighborhood friends. Fill up the collapsible above-ground pool with some cold water from the hose and we were set.

And on really hot days, my mother took me and my brother and sister to the library to cool off.¬† After scooping up anything Beverly Cleary and a few architectural magazines, we’d go home where I would claim my spot on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, right where the air conditioning wall unit blew a stream of nice cool air under the bed, to pore over floor plans for an hour or two.¬† I know — now I’m making you jealous, right?

But as far as the child in me was concerned, this was the epitome of a fun summer.

I remember literally turning up my nose at the thought of spending a whole summer in camp when I heard about other kids (in far-away regions) who left their parents to spend weeks on end living in a mosquitoe-y cabin and swimming in a murky lake somewhere.

Fast forward to 2009. I get out of my car a few days after L.’s last day of first grade. There’s a Top 40 soundtrack blaring from overhead speakers and Spiderman standing on top of a school bus filled with day campers. The pools are glistening in the morning sunlight, the smells of breakfast waft through the air, and the rock wall and sky trail have caught my son’s eye.

Boy, do I want to be him.

In a few weeks, we’ll be back in the same spot as he starts his third summer at this same day camp. He can’t wait to see his camp friends and be eligible for the baseball tournament this year. He is proud of the fact that he graduated to the big pool and can start diving instruction. This from the kid who had every excuse in the book to not swim when I brought him to swimming lessons in the year before he started camp.

Camp has given him a leg up on me in tennis (although my skill level isn’t that hard to match). By the end of last summer, I might have mistaken him for a California native on the beach volleyball court. He has full access to batting cages, go-karts, in-line skating ramps and a dek hockey court. You name it, they do it. Did I mention cooking class, puppet shows, nature walks and woodworking?

And as if his stories at the end of the day weren’t convincing enough, I get to see the fun for myself in the hundreds of pictures posted by the camp in an online photo gallery every day. And I couldn’t be happier for him. Because although his days are structured, maybe even more than when he’s in school, there’s nothing about camp that he doesn’t like.

Except when it ends. The last day, somewhere around the third week in August when the counselors all have to get ready to go back to college, is tough. The kids cry. The boys too.

(Me? Well I’m secretly celebrating, because most of the time, that’s the start of my vacation week from work.) But I try to entice him with all the fun things mom has planned for his two weeks of freedom before school starts up again. Picking berries at the farm. A trip to the water park. A quiet weekend in the city at the museums. A road trip down the shore.

But I can still count the hours until the first “I’m bored.” At which point I always suggest the library and a cold hose.

Do your kids go to summer camp? Did you?

Looks like Amanda and I might be going to camp together. But that means the kids are staying home.

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