Why Camp is Good for Mom and Dad, Too.

JJ and Woody’s daughter, Anna, at arts camp this past summer.

There are many reasons why summer camp is good for kids, but did you know it can help Mom and Dad, too?  Today Wanapitei co-director, JJ, talks about how camp helped ease her parental anxieties.

I have been a summer camp director for a lot longer than I have been a parent – 20 years as a director, 9 years as a parent.   This past summer, I became a summer camp parent.  We sent our first born, Anna, to an overnight summer camp – an arts camp 8 hours drive from Wanapitei.

For years I have been counseling other parents as they try to land their hover craft for the period of time that their child is with us at Wanapitei.  Now I understand the urge to helicopter parent first hand.  I desperately wanted to tell my colleagues, who direct the arts camp, all about Anna’s needs.  I felt that their medical form was not as complete as Wanapitei’s and almost filled out our form and sent it to them.  I didn’t believe their report on the first full day that Anna was fine and resisted the urge to get in touch with them.  If I didn’t have my summer camp director training, I would have been an active helicopter parent during Anna’s stay at camp.  My anxiety was high and I wanted to act on it.

Michael G. Thompson, PhD has just written a book called Homesick and Happy which is being heralded as a must read for parents as much for themselves as for their support of their children.  He claims that summer camp can be an antidote to parenting in the age of anxiety.  I agree!  We need a break from our children for our own well being and learning as much as they need to develop independence from us.  Thompson believes that “children who are away from their parents can be both homesick and happy, scared and successful, anxious and exuberant.”  This was absolutely true of Anna’s experience away from her father and me this past summer.  What a concept!  A child can be homesick AND happy!

I know that this past summer, both Anna and I became more mature and resilient because she attended an overnight camp.  I learned that my anxiety and need for control will do nothing to increase the quality of her life experiences.  If I helicopter parent, my actions are for me and not for my daughter. I’m still parenting in the age of anxiety, but I’m much better at landing my hover craft and letting go.

JJ is the co-director of Camp Wanapitei and a mother of two.