The Eternal Camper
Summer Camp. There is something sacred about this time of the year for those who attend. I went to sleep-away camp growing up and had some amazing summers. I definitely looked forward to it and counted the days for the summer to arrive. I was a camper for several years and continued on to be a counselor. I actually think that as an adult I can appreciate the camp experience so much more than when I was actually a camper. I know this first hand because I did go back to camp as an adult and got a whole new perspective.
When I had children of my own I was a pro-camp parent. Camp isn’t for everyone, but if your child likes it, there is nothing better. It starts at day camp. My daughter started a full day summer camp in my town as she was about to enter kindergarten. When I went for the day to visit, the memories of camp came flooding back to me; arts and crafts, tie-dye, spirit days, lanyard bracelets, sticker books, popsicles at rest hour, etc… I knew that I had to be a part of this scene once again. It was perfect for me! I was a stay-at-home mom with 2 young children. They would be at camp anyway, so why not work there? Towards the end of the summer I spoke with the owner about working as a group leader the following summer. I was hired! This was the start of my born again camper life for the next 7 years. I spent a few years being a group leader at the day camp. As the time was coming for my daughter to graduate to sleep-away camp, I too had visions of sing, instructional swim, counselor hunt, zip lines, apache relays, milk and cookies, and color war.
My daughter was signed up for the summer and my plan was to see how she liked it. If she was hooked, this would be my opportunity to contact the camp to see if they needed another senior staff mom on board. Visiting day came and she was hooked! I started my talks of joining the staff and by the fall had committed to being at camp the next summer. I was going to be the director of fitness. I was so excited, not just for the position that I was going to have, but for the opportunity to be a camp mom. This role ended up being so much more than I had expected.
Fast forward to June, and I was busy packing up not only my kids trunks, but my own life for the summer and heading to camp for staff orientation. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to camp for the summer with my kids and my husband was on his own. People were quietly judgmental with this decision that I was making. The expression on peoples faces said it all. I know they were asking themselves, why would I want to do this? I will admit that it seemed a little unorthodox to pack up with my kids and spend the summer at sleep away camp with the majority of people being under the age of 25. For me, it was exciting and energizing to be in this spirited environment. It does make you feel young and at the same time makes you feel wise. Being a mom away from my typical environment took on a new role. I had younger campers that needed a mom’s support and warmth. I also connected with the older campers and college staff, inspiring them with the lessons and experiences that I had learned myself over time. This support and coaching gave these kids the ability and confidence to reach goals and grow. This is what I offered as a leader and role model at camp for others.
For myself, I enjoyed the little space that was only mine. I made the most out of it and created a cozy place to retreat at the end of a busy camp day. Even though it was a little bunk with no A/C, lock on the door, TV or internet, I treasured my special place. I also loved that for 8 weeks I did not have to grocery shop, cook one meal for anyone, or do any laundry (not even for myself). My husband would visit on the weekends, and since he had never been to camp as a child, was the happiest camper of all. He was amazed at how special the camp experience was and supported me when I returned for the following few years.
The choice to be the eternal camper was a huge part of my life as a child, teen and parent. I felt lucky to be able to experience this as an adult. The lessons that I offered and the memories that I have taken away are priceless.
(Artwork provided by our very own Writer Nancy Anton, and can be found at http://pixels.com/artists/nancyanton )