By Nancy S. Kyme, Contributing Writer
Camp fairs are a great venue to search for your child’s summer camp. I participated in one last spring at the Dulles Town Center to promote my book Memory Lake: The Forever Friendships of Summer. “No, it’s not a camp,” I would say when visitors paused at my table. “It’s a memoir about the positive, lasting influence of sleepover summer camp.” A bowl of pine needle boughs, trimmed from the white pine in my front yard, drew kids to my table. The woodsy scent enthralled them. Most kids brushed the soft needles across their cheeks, mouth and chin, then asked, “What is this?” I would explain it was a cutting from a pine tree. “What’s a pine tree?” they inevitably asked next. At that point, I would talk to the parent about the difference between an indoor day camp and a sleepover summer camp in a safe, natural setting.
Children benefit greatly from being unplugged for a few weeks. They learn to appreciate a beautiful sunrise and sunset. They bask in the vista earned from a mountain hike. They learn the satisfaction of building a campfire and the joy of paddling a canoe. Friendships thrive on a level quite different from a school setting, and faith becomes more than a vague concept.
Yes, sleepover camp can be costly; the logistics are challenging; and letting go is difficult–which, curiously enough, is the best reason of all to send your kids to camp. From meals to sports to sleeping habits, they see their lives from the outside in. They always return home with a new perspective and newfound gratitude. The lessons they learn are innumerable, from independence and self-reliance to cooperation and sportsmanship. More importantly, these lessons are theirs alone, and can only be acquired away from home.
The lessons I learned at camp were life lessons, which is why Memory Lake is not just a book about camp, but a book about life. Over five summers, for seven weeks at a time, I entered a thrilling world of autonomy supported by deep friendships. I will always be grateful to my parents for taking this leap of faith and letting me go. If you aren’t already sold on the idea of sending your kids on their own adventure, read Memory Lake, and then find a camp fair in your area.