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More Than Just a Camp

More Than Just a Camp

Summertime for many means family vacations. For others, it means the constant complaining by school-age children whining, “I’m bored,” and “There’s nothing to do.” I have always known how I would combat that dilemma; I would send my children to camp. I had planned on doing this not to get rid of them, but rather to provide them with the same wonderful experience I had as a child when I went to camp.

My husband Michael and I have three daughters. It took some time for me to convince him to send his princesses away to camps, but after sharing some of my favorite memories, he finally relented. My two oldest girls, Riley and Sidney, began going to camp at the age of eight. Camp Mystic is an all-girls Christian camp in Hunt, Texas, that was established in 1926, and it is still run by the 3rd generation family. Both of my girls started out for 2 weeks at first but loved it so much that they begged to go for a month. They excitedly boarded the bus each time; it was harder on us to let them leave. My husband and I scoured pictures which were posted nightly for an image of our girls smiling and having fun. We wrote letters daily, and anxiously went to the mailbox for incoming letters to read about their favorite activity, newest friends, and tribe news. Campers could choose from swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, tennis, gymnastics, fishing, riflery, and other traditional activities, and our girls did them all throughout their summers. Imagine girls even through their teenage years begging to give up their cell phones, to give up air-conditioning, and to give up boys—it can happen. For ten years, Riley and Sidney did just that, and in return, they gained confidence, self-esteem, new skills, and lifelong friends. 

One camp was not enough. Because we are not boat people, but we went to the lake often, I wanted my girls to be familiar around a boat and water. All the girls went to a fabulous waterski camp where they learned boat safety and how to ski. SkiMasters is a small family run camp nestled on Lake McQueeney in Texas. It only has two cabins- one for girls and one for boys which holds about 30 campers total. For a week, campers woke up to a home-cooked breakfast before they headed out on the lake for instructions. They were divided into groups according to their abilities and learned how to or improved in skiing, slaloming, barefooting, trick skiing, and wakeboarding. After a day on the lake, campers ended the evening with a campfire, skits, ping-pong tournaments, and s’mores. The highlight of the week occurs during the camp closing. Parents waiting on a restaurant’s patio anxiously wait for their child to participate in the “ski-by” to show off the newly acquired skills. Though my girls viewed this experience as just a fantastic week at the lake with newfound friends, we knew they had been taught lifelong safety skills.

Not every camp is for everyone. To find the perfect home-away-from-home, you must be willing to try new ones. It took some time to find the ideal camp for my youngest daughter, Sarah. Personalities must be examined, and hers demanded sports. After trying Camp Ozark and SkiMasters, she realized she wanted to hone her athletic abilities, so she focused on soccer and tennis camps. She devoted her summers to ODP soccer camps and Texas A&M-College Station tennis camp and thrived on 8-hour practices and acquiring new skills from different coaches. Her idea of fun was obtaining and refining her ability, so she could compete at a higher level. 

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Your child will not be the only one who benefits; you will as well. Handwritten letters without texting lingo are now in my keepsake box. Animal-shaped magnets created in arts & crafts still adorn my refrigerator. A rainbow painted wind chime hangs in the backyard. Material items aside, you will enjoy listening to camp stories for years to come. You will be amazed when they run into their camp friends on vacations, first day of college, and even while studying abroad.  Oh, and as a bonus, you might have time to really clean out their closets or just read a book uninterrupted while they are gone.

Our girls went to numerous camps throughout their childhood. They changed according to their ages and interests. Not all of them were out of town; many local schools, churches, and other organizations provide a variety of options to choose from. There is a camp for everyone; it just might take a couple of tries to find the right match. 

Sending your child to camp, whether it be for the day, week, or month, is tremendously beneficial to them.  Not only did you provide them a chance to make new friends, to gain independence and to obtain self-assurance, but more importantly, you gave them a chance to UNPLUG and to be stress-free. In today’s world now more than ever, it is vital that children are given an opportunity to be kids again and to escape social media where they can be bombarded with constant pings, tweets, DMs, and Snapchats. Yes, your child might lose their streaks, but they will gain so much more.

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