Summer camp is likely the first real BreakAway that many kids experience—and also a full immersion for parents in setting their children free. In this touching essay, Michael Gerson ponders all that and more, only to conclude that “It is also harder than I thought. And I don’t know how to let go.”
My 12-year old is gone at camp for 10 days. Fortunately, this is Year 5. So I not only find it easier each year, I probably enjoy it more. After all, tweenie-kids these days: They’ve already got SOs, 24/7 text-mania, hectic social (and school and sports) lives, and most of the answers.
So in some ways, my role as a dad becomes more extraneous by the minute. Yet it’s also the most important “work” in my life—while the job lasts—so I fight for family time, music practice, manners lessons, and a real relationship. But do I miss those challenges when I get a 10-day reprieve? Not so much. I mean, sometimes a guy needs a break!
No doubt he does too. Though he many not know it, campfire silliness and learning to canoe and making new friends trump texting and pool-play at the end of the day—and your life.
A few decades later, I can definitely say that the most memorable experiences of my childhood included that three-week camp at the ranch. The summer weeks that I stayed on at my grandparents’ farm. The carefree independence of teen summer itself—when a bike and some friends was ALL you needed.
I’ve been scratching itchy feet and searching for free will ever since—now blessed to take a lengthy Sabbatical now and then. I learned how from summer vacations.
So the best lesson of summer camp may be for a kid to learn to take a break…get away. And yes, that includes from the parents.