Four years ago, we sent our oldest child to her first summer camp. It was a program for kids kinder-age through sixth grade. The program included many excursions throughout the city and also off to the coast, Gorge, and many other day-trip adventures. The thought of our daughter romping around the city park, loosely monitored at the playground border by the sun-loving camp counselors frightened us. Kids were sent to the potty on their own, allowed to lunch wherever they wanted in the expansive picnic area of the park. I don't know. We were just a bit scared of it all, the great big world at large and our little five year old roaming free. I know that's not the way it was, but that's the way we felt. We were nervous. It was her first foray into bigger-kid activity, her first step out of the protected preschool zone.
Every day for two weeks, the campers took the bus to Sellwood Pool from NW Portland (a looooong trek!) for swim class. Afterward, they would frolic in the play area for a couple of hours, then head back to the pool for open swim. On the second day of camp, my husband and I arranged to take a "run". We actually put on our running gear, drove to Sellwood Park, got out of the car and jogged around the park, trying to steal glimpses of our big girl in her new expanded environment. We had just set out for our jaunt when we were caught, seen by the lead camp counselor. Knowing we'd been seen, we jogged over to the counselor, and said "Oh! We were just out for a run and thought we'd see how things were going." But, of course, things were just fine. Our girl was having the time of her life, and so were the other campers. Camp counselors were having fun and had a good grip on the whereabouts of each child. It was just a new level of independence for us and for our girl.
Last year, we experienced a whole new level of independence. Then eight, our girl went to a camp at the University of Portland, an all-girls camp for kids aged 8 to 13. Again, she was at the bottom of the age-bracket, and so we felt so new to the increased level of freedom. Lunch was a whole hour and it was open campus. Campers were allowed to picnic outside, head to the dining hall to buy food, or go to the snack bar for more treats. The expectation was that the girls could manage themselves, and no one could go anywhere unless they were in pairs and unless they told a camp counselor.
I couldn't very easily get out to the University that week, to spy a glimpse on my girl, so I sent a friend, a professor at the University. And, soon enough, I got a quick report via email letting me know that our girl was happy, safe, and comfortable. It was about 45 minutes into the free hour of lunch, and all was well.
Summer camps, for many of us, is a time to try something new, to stretch boundaries, to collect new experiences. It can be an emotional time in high transition, going from week to week in different places to learn about different topics. I'd love to hear your stories about how these first couple of weeks of summer camp is going. I'd especially love to hear stories of sneaking and spying on your littles, perhaps faking a "run in the park" or even hiding in the bushes just to catch a peak!