When I was a child, I spent many weeks of the summer up north canoeing and camping in Algonquin Park (I learned to solo paddle when I was about 8!)
Each year at Thanksgiving, you could find our family heading out from the Portage Store on Canoe Lake on a three-day canoe trip to Little Joe Island. I have several memories of paddling that journey with the cold wind blowing and the snow piling up in the canoe! It may sound like hell to some, but to me, it was a way of life. It was the only vacation I had ever known. And it was some of the best learning experiences of my life.
Those camping trips happened for a couple of reasons. First, my family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so camping was an affordable and fun way to spend our vacation time. But really the more important reason is because of something my dad did as a child… he went to summer camp for kids. And the experience he had in those years at camp was one that shaped his life and one that he wanted to share with our family.
My dad has talked for years about how summer camp had such a profound impact on his life. How he didn’t have a fantastic relationship with his father and how the relationship he forged with his camp director really made a difference to the kind of man he grew to be. It was listening to my dad for all these years that made me realize long before I was a mother that I would send any child I had to summer camp. I would give my child an opportunity to learn and grow as an individual in ways that are only made possible by going to camp.
Fast forward to when my son, Evan, was just shy of six years old. I nervously registered him for his first session of summer camp for kids 2 months before he turned six. So he started young.
And I have to be honest, although I had been dreaming of that moment for years, the decision to send him to live away at camp for one week was not an easy one.
Evan was not your typical almost six-year-old boy. He’s not wild and crazy and fearless (unless you count his love of roller coasters and snakes). He is, in fact, a very sensitive, shy and thoughtful boy. He’s the type of boy who wants to invite his kindergarten teacher to his birthday party. (True story!) So the thought of sending him off to make his own way in the world (if only for a week) was a very hard one to wrap my head around.
That summer, we made it through our first camp experience with flying colours. Evan absolutely loved it and has been going back every summer ever since.
And that’s why I’m glad I sent him to summer camp at just six years-old. I wouldn’t change a thing.
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