Enjoying the Summer Sleep Away Camp Effect While It Lasts

CampGrandpa and I try to visit our grandchildren before they leave for summer sleep away camp each year.   Three are now old enough* to give their parents this welcome break from the responsibility and hard work of parenting.  The days before camp trunks are picked up are hectic and busy, but the grandchildren begin to emotionally distance from home, looking forward to summer camp friends and activities, and most of all, the freedom from their parents, household rules and chores.  We discuss activities they have chosen or not.  We discuss the food, which alternates from terrific to terrible, but worth the experience.  We discuss their old camp friends and new ones they will make.  We discuss what they love most about camp and what they want to experience during the summer.

We discuss that we will see them again after camp.

In the meantime, of course, this Grandma has already sent family pictures for them to have waiting for them at camp to hang above their bunk to remind them they are part of a larger family unit, when they now become part of the camp family unit.  Their parents can keep in touch with daily email and weekly telephone calls, but we grandparents must wait for the one or two letters that tell us that they love camp.  We love the camp photographs the parents of our grandchildren forward to us, and I immediately make multiple copies to send off to the camper to share with his or her friends.

And love camp our grandchildren do.  We are fortunate that the parents of our grandchildren selected the same camp experience for our grandchildren that they had.  After researching every summer sleep away camp anew, they came back to the recognition that we grandparents selected the best for them and it still is the best for our grandchildren.  We love that we know the camp and Maine and can recall our fond memories of our summer trips around visitors’ day.  We love that we can relate to the joy our grandchildren are experiencing.  We know that the quality brother-sister boys and girls camps they attend provide them with leadership skills, personal  growth through individualization of program and activities,  independence, confidence, and skills for living in and belonging to a community.  We love that they have a forced hiatus from electronics.

We grandparents love most to visit each of our grandchildren once they return from camp.  We discuss activities they enjoyed, or not.  We discuss the food, which alternated from terrific to terrible, but worth the experience.  We discuss their old camp friends and new ones they made.  We discuss what they loved most about camp and what they want to experience next summer when they go back to their camps in Maine.

Most of all, we grandparents cannot wait to enjoy the summer sleep away camp effect.

First, we do not know what makes them grow so much over a month or two months of summer camp.  Each seems taller and stronger.  Each seems to stand taller.

Second, we love the independence and confidence they display.  Each seems more self assured and mature.  Each seems comfortable in his or her skin and ready for anything.

Third, we love their ability to care for themselves and do for themselves, and want to.  We love to see the ability to get along with their siblings, after being in a bunk with virtual strangers and having to get along. We love that the cousins are together for the summer and develop a close familial bond, visible when they return as they discuss their mutual experiences.

After return from summer sleep away camp, the grandchildren are the most pleasurable to be with.  They are polite and patient.  They are interested and interesting.  We have much to share, when we can wean them off the electronics they were deprived of at summer camp.

After our grandchildren’s return from summer sleep away camp, we love to see them with their parents.  The parents have had a respite, the opportunity to vacation without worry, the opportunity to live without responsibility for their children, the opportunity for privacy, renewal of intimacy and freedom for a time.  The parents are relaxed.   The grandchildren are relaxed.  They are happy to see each other and be together.

Our visits are just perfect after the summer sleep away camp effect.

Fortunately, we leave before preparation for the next school year begins.

Then, inevitably, we receive the telephone call.  This year it was from our ten year old grandchild who finished his second year at summer sleep away camp.  I hear the whining and complaining voice.  His brother unfairly gets him into trouble.  He cannot get the sneakers he wants for school.   Yet, after a short conversation and discussion, this Grandma can hear the effect, the turn around to a reminder of summer camp, which changes the dynamic, to a more proactive means of accommodation.

Three weeks.  That is what it takes for the grandchildren to revert to previous behaviors.  After three weeks, it takes work to bring them back to the summer sleep away camp effect.

But, as grandparents, who are now seeing the effect of summer sleep away camp on the second generation, we know that the benefits of the experience are life changing and life enhancing.

We love the summer sleep away camp effect and enjoy it while it lasts, and the glimpses of it yearlong. . . .to be reinforced summer to summer with







*Our grandchildren started at age eight or nine.

If summer sleep away camp is something that a grandparent thinks is appropriate for a grandchild, the time to encourage their parents to explore options for next summer or the summer thereafter is now.  This Grandma suggests that research should begin at least two years before the grandchild might attend for the first time.  Whether it is a one week experiment or a two week to eight week camp, or a specialty camp based on a child’s skills and interests, the best camp experiences fill up fast.   Just google “summer sleep away camp ratings,” and you will find much information.  Our grandchildren go to camp in Maine, a great camp location with many outstanding summer camps.  Their brother and sister camps, rated among the best in the country, are most likely full for next summer by the publication of this blog post, as existing campers get a discount if they sign up at visitors’ day and before camp ends.  New campers should be ready with completed applications and deposits by visitors’ day of the next summer for the summer sleep away camp that is chosen as most appropriate for the family and the child.  It might be a great birthday and holiday presents rolled up in one to contribute to an experience that will be life changing for our precious grandchildren, if the parents need assistance to provide this for the grandchildren.




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