My three children are privileged to enjoy several weeks away at summer camp each summer. While my daughter spends two weeks at girls’ camp, her older brothers enjoy 4 consecutive weeks at a boys’ camp. If my daughter holds true to her affirmation (and her father and I can afford it), I will be without kids for 4 weeks next summer as she intends to stay for a month as well. Each year I am repeated asked how can I bear to be without them for so long? Our decision to build a cottage with no kids to fill it for 4 weeks each summer is continually questioned as well. Truthfully, as all parents can agree, there is no way I can fill their summer days. Our two weeks at the cottage each summer is glorious but there are another 7 weeks to tackle each summer. When you subtract the weekends, I still have about 40 summer days to plan for without resorting to xBox, Facebook and Rogers On Demand. At the end of the day, their summer camp days amount to 30 days of 365. Believe me, the kids seem to multiply on the days we ARE at the cottage, so I think I’m coming out even!
I suppose some might see me as a bad mother that I cannot provide a summer of reading books under shady trees, swinging tires over lazing streams, and daily outings to local fun spots. However, the camps we have chosen for our children permit no electronics and have neither electricity nor running water in their cabins or tents (while my youngest is in a cabin, the two boys spend the entire month in a tent). Their month is filled with activities that help them with leadership, confidence and physical challenges beyond what I am capable of providing. My eldest wrote me recently about his 5-day canoe trip through Algonquin Park with nine other 14-year-olds and 2 counselors. I am not alone among my friends who would answer, “Glad I didn’t have to do that!” My other son learned how to use a cross bow and enjoyed jumping off a 50ft cliff (I couldn’t watch either let alone encourage him). My daughter listened to tales of a self-professed hippie how now bring refurbished guitars to teen runaway centres. Each of my kids will each return with new and differing achievement levels in swimming, canoeing, archery, cross-bow, wind surfing, ropes courses, climbing walls, camp triathlons, fitness, pottery, painting, long distance swims, horseback riding, among others. They will take turns clearing their table and sweeping out the tent. Each day they rise at 7am to communal morning swims and flag raisings. Every evening they bid each other good night in communal song. Each Sunday they participate in outdoor nondenominational services and once a week they will sort their clothes to be laundered. They will try and fail at some challenges, but persevere and succeed at much more. Though their personal hygiene will no doubt suffer, their personal friendships will prosper.
This is my seventh season of camp preparations, and as I still come to grips with the loneliness of kid-free summer weeks – empty-nest syndrome training (hence, ENST), my husband quips – my standing answer to anyone who questions my parenting on this matter is “I know… I’m jealous too!”