This summer, thousands of children across our country will stretch those muscles of independence and embark on that most wondrous of summer adventures: Summer Camp. Parents will say their goodbyes and spend the next week worrying about everything from spider bites to broken bones, to bacteria in the lake water.
When it comes to letting go of sticky fingers and kissing smudged cheeks goodbye, I am an expert. My son, Charlie, has been an annual camper at Camp Hanes since he was a tiny fella at the tender age of 6. For the last two summers, he’s gone to camp for two-week increments with weekend stay-overs. And this year, as a 17-year-old, he goes to camp as a CIT (Counselor in Training).
After all these years of sending my son to camp, you’d think I’d have quite a scrapbook of his personal recollections of camp. But, nope! Not a one. The first five years of camp, I sent pre-addressed stamped envelopes, paper and pens. And like the toilet seat covers that I sent in his toiletry bag, everything came back totally untouched, albeit slightly damp from his pool towel.
After five years of waiting for a letter, I gave up. Charlie was too busy enjoying camp and savoring every moment to take time to write about it. But as a mother (and a writer), I’d love to have some treasured scrap of letter, stained with dirt and smeared with sweat that documents a moment of my son’s camp history. Alas, it’s never to be. For he’s now going to be taking the first step to be a counselor, friend and mentor to the next generation of campers. It’s my hope that he will encourage younger campers to do what he did not…write those hilarious letters home and document memories that will be treasured for a lifetime.
Kim Beane knows the value of these camp letters. She has the camp letters that her dad sent to her grandmother in the early 1950s. Charming, funny, to the point—they are a reminder that for each generation of campers, the camp experience promises an adventure.
“Dear Mom, Will you please send me a mouse trap because the mouse is eating my candy.”
“Dear Mom, Write to me more and type it so I can read it.”
What a gift Kim has in these letters! In them, she sees the child in the man whom she knew as Dad.
This summer, as you prepare to send your child(ren) to camp, encourage them to write. Be sure, when you write to them, you ask questions about what they are doing, who they are hanging out with, what their favorite experiences have been. Give them questions that invite open, honest and, hopefully, hysterical responses!
If your campers write that they are missing home, missing you, missing the dog, missing their goldfish—it’s important that you encourage them to exert their own independence…even if you are crying yourself to sleep every night missing them! They deserve the right to figure out this whole camp thing, and either learn to love it, or walk away and say, “I tried it, but it wasn’t for me.” Either way—it’s a learning opportunity and a character-building experience that will carry them far!
In the event you receive an especially funny letter from camp, we’d love to see it! Please scan/email a copy to Denise@ForsythMags.com. You never know! We may have to make this article an annual thing and celebrate the memories that Forsyth Family Kids are making at camp!