Camp Decisions: No Day At The Beach

Is My Son Ready For Overnight Camp?

We get asked all the time about the right age to start overnight camp. Parents worry about kids being too young for all the obvious reasons. They’ve never been away from home before. They can’t take care of themselves. They’re picky eaters. They still need to be reminded to do all the basics, like taking a shower and brushing their teeth and changing their clothes and putting on sunscreen. They can’t keep track of their stuff. The idea of sending them off on their own can be terrifying, and the laundry list of things they can’t do on their own (including actual laundry) is Exhibit A. 

But here’s the thing: When you send your kids to overnight camp, you’re not sending them off on their own. You’re just sending them away from you

Kids Of All Ages Benefit From Summer Camp

When your kids are at camp, it’s natural (and awesome) for them to learn to do things for themselves, but they’re still going to need help. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t need camp. Sure, they grow increasingly independent as they get older. A CI likely won’t need to be reminded to go to the bathroom at Taps so he doesn’t wet the bed, but we’re on all the campers all the time about things like staying hydrated and sunscreened and eating well and getting enough rest. There are also constant reminders to be patient, compassionate, empathetic and sportsmanlike. Sound familiar? Of course it does. We’re parents. It’s what we do. 

Knowing When To Say When

To that end, at Bauercrest we are very intentional… and very transparent… about who’s able to do what at camp. My first summer as Camp Mom, one of the all-camp field trips was an afternoon at the beach. It was a picture-perfect day, an easy 15-minute drive, and the beach was packed. We’d come prepared with food, drinks, and plenty of staff, including our nurses. The counselors were attentive, the kids were respectful, and everyone had a great time. If you have a pit in your stomach as you’re bracing yourself to read about the scary turn of events, relax. There was no scary turn of events. And yet, that was our last all-camp trip to the beach. During camp, whether I’m taking pictures or just taking it all in, I can’t help but feel as though I’m standing next to every parent of every camper and you’re all seeing exactly what I’m seeing. That day at the beach was no different. As beautiful as it was, I had that pit in my stomach until we were back on the buses, all present and accounted for, headed back to camp. I hadn’t felt like that on any other field trip that summer, and I haven’t on any field trip since. 

Aspirational Arcs

We still do a trip to the beach every summer, but now it’s just for our Waiters and CIs. Why? For starters, they’re 16 and 17 years old, there aren’t 150 of them, and we feel very confident that our staff can keep them safe. Even more significant is the fact that our Waiters and CIs are CPR- and Lifeguard-Certified. This type of intentional programming means that we don’t bring our 8-year-olds to a crowded beach, we don’t have a designated after-hours lounge for our 10-year-olds, and we don’t send our 12-year-olds to Israel. Our campers get all these things… just not right away. Not until they’re ready. These rites of passages are called aspirational arcs, and Bauercrest is built on them. 

Trusting The Process… And Each Other

Last week, Ken forwarded me an article published by LICSW Jodi Woodnick called “Tips For A Successful Sleepaway Camp Experience”. My first inclination whenever I read something I love is to wish I had written it. But as much as I loved this piece, I’m glad I didn’t write it, because I know it will mean more coming from someone who doesn’t care even a tiny bit whether your sons come to Bauercrest. Whereas I do care. Very much. I get that these are your babies. It’s hard enough to trust yourself to make the right decisions for them, and they’re all you think about. Overnight camp is basically people you may not know very well asking you to trust them to make decisions for your babies on the daily in your absence. It only sounds scary because it is. So get to know us. Come to our get-togethers or let us come to you. Ask us anything. Let us earn your trust. Once that happens, and your children see that we are partners on this journey, they’ll learn to trust us, too. They’ll gain a whole new family that’s got their backs. And yes… we’ll makes sure those backs are sunscreened. 

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Stacy Pollack

Stacy writes our popular Dear Camp Mom blog and works year-round to ensure that Bauercrest creates memorable experiences for parents and campers alike. She also creates photo montages inspired by songs most of our campers have never heard before but make the parents very nostalgic.

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