Sending your kid to camp for the first time feels just like how their first day of school felt… only instead of it lasting seven hours, it lasts seven days.
We sent our mere six-year-old to summer camp – the cabin kind with bunk beds and breakfast – for the first time this summer. I think I’m still in shock that it happened.
Not in a million years would my six-year-old want to sleep over somewhere by himself with a bunch of strange kids. For a week. Not in a million years could I trust people I didn’t know to take care of my little boy all day and night. And not in a million years would my oldest, most reserved, and cautious kid want to rock climb and zip line and water slide his way through the summer sun. Or so I thought.
We attended “family camp” with our kids with the hopes that they would love it enough to go next year on their own. Since attending family camp included a free week of camp later in the summer, I signed up our oldest son, the only one old enough to actually go, “just because.”
I didn’t think he would do it.
But then he did. He wanted to.
I never went to overnight camp as a kid. But there is so much evidence of the good in camp for kids that we want to give ours the opportunity to try.
Before we knew it, we were picking up our bouncing, grinning, filthy-looking boy after a week away; stinky clothes, silly stories and all.
Going to camp was a huge milestone for him. And us.
I think we’re all a little different because of it.
Here’s how sending my six-year-old to summer camp for the first time changed me.
1. I saw how important it is to let my children lead their own choices.
If I made this decision for him, he wouldn’t have gone.
I mislabeled him as too shy, reserved, or timid to try something so wild. And I was wildly wrong. He wanted to try, he wanted be brave, and strong, and social, and adventurous. Seeing this side of him is a joy I would’ve missed if I chose for him. Camp was a milestone in his confidence and independence that would’ve never happened.
I will be more careful about how I label my kids, and more curious about what they really think even when I think I know.
Sometimes what I might choose for my kids might not actually be their best choice. When it’s safe and reasonable, I want to let my kids lead the conversation on big decisions. I want to listen.
2. I practiced physically, tangibly surrendering my child.
It’s hard to release control of the care of your kid. If you’re a parent of young kids you know this. I wonder if the feeling ever goes away.
Trusting someone else with your baby for the first time is a tender process. This little life you love more than your own breath is in the arms of another human that can’t possibly love them as much as you do. It slowly gets easier to trust others, and that trust is special. But sending your kid to camp, that’s HUGE trust.
From the beginning of birth, parenting feels like a process of surrender for me and this was no exception. Although we may have a lot of control over the socks and snacks and stories; we actually aren’t in control.
Sending my six-year-old to camp was a spiritual surrender and a significant reminder that I’m not in control of my son’s life.
On this side of eternity, in the messy hard world we live, I’m going to want it: control. Because let’s be real, the world can be scary and we don’t get to control it. And if I did, I’d do a terrible job.
Since I believe that before my children were my children, they were made, chosen and loved by God, I can safely surrender them to him. Not in a they’ll-never-get-hurt-and-always-be-happy kind of way, but in a God-is-sovereign-and-good-and-loving-and-worthy kind of way. Although I don’t have all the answers, I do have faith.
Have you ever sent a kid to camp?
If so, what was the best thing about it?
If you’re curious… we went here!