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Summer Camp: Not Just for Campers!

Once the new year begins, we really kick it into high gear at Winnataska.  Looking at all the returning camper's names who have recently registered, and with sessions filling up, reality comes at me full speed: The campers are coming! The campers are coming!

My job is to prepare camp for the campers, but my job is also to prepare parents for camp.  This week away from home can can cause a lot of anxiety....not just among the 8-year olds, but also among the 38-year olds. 

It's the gut-wrenching, can't-sleep-at-night, "What-if?" kind of worrying. The kind that only comes with being a parent and realizing that your "babies" are growing up and becoming independent.

We are so used to instant gratification in this technologically advanced age, that the 6 days without contact with our child is mind-boggling.  Want to know who played the butcher on The Brady Bunch? Just google it. What's the fat content of a Cookies and Cream milkshake at Chic-fil-a?  The answer is waiting for me in my cell phone in 3.8 seconds. But while our kids are at camp, the only communication is a letter from our kid on Tuesday: "Dear Mom and Dad, I have a rash. Send cream." And we're supposed to just sit there and do nothing?

The answer is yes.  Pray for your child, pray for their counselors, pray for the camp staff. Write them a letter with some corny knock-knock jokes. Keep busy. Do a house or craft project that would never get done while your child was at home. Go out to a nice dinner with your spouse or friends. Organize their closet. But try not to let your worry overshadow your pride in your child for trying new things and growing up.

During our staff training, everyone at camp learns the meaning of "in loco parentis." It's the level of care that we expect our counselors and staff to provide for our campers and it means "in the place of a prudent parent."  While we have a tremendous amount of fun at camp, we do take this responsibility very seriously.  I might not get to know all of their names during the week, but you can rest assured that if they have a health problem or they are unhappy, I will treat them with the same love and compassion that I would treat my own children, and I will work tirelessly to make sure that everyone at camp does the same.

I am right there with you when I send my kids away for a school field trip or church retreat. Who can possibly take as good care of my kids when they are away from me? The answer is that no one can replace you. But the self-help and social skills that campers get from a week at camp can't be learned unless the camper is in a new situation...away from their parents. We all want the best for our kids, and the bittersweet reality is that there are many lessons that they have to learn for themselves.

The rash cream? We have plenty at camp; don't worry! ;)

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