Spring has sprung, which means it's time for parents and grandparents to begin searching and signing kids up for camps to enrich and entertain the little ones throughout the summer. Thoughts of such have me experiencing a melancholic longing for camp.
Which is a particularly odd emotion considering that as a child, I never once attended summer camp.
When I was in elementary school, no one I knew went to camp. As Minnesota farm kids, none of us lacked outdoor entertainment during school vacations. When my family moved to Colorado just before I started fifth grade, summer camp still never crossed my mind. Reason being: Included in the yard of our new home was an unused stable—the perfect setting for the "Night Owls" club my new BFF next door and I created.
Deep in the hay-scented stalls of our clubhouse, we devised secret Indian names for each other, boiled up special soups of wild onions and a pepper-tasting plant, and roasted Hot Tamale candies on toothpicks over a small flame. (Of course, our parents never knew about the fires—or the possibly poisonous concoctions we sipped.)
Sleeping under the stars in the comfort of our adjoining back yards was the only camping my friend and I considered.
I never felt I'd missed something by not attending camp as a child, so I didn't push the issue with my own children. My eldest did attend one overnight camp—a dark cloud of overwhelming homesickness colored her every moment there—and my two youngest participated only in one cheerleading day camp. They never seemed interested in more than that.
The intriguing camp options filling my inbox in press releases from various camps and organizations has me rethinking my indifference toward camps. Perhaps my daughters and I did miss out. If I had it to do over again, my girls would attend at least one camp per summer. I bet my oldest would have been less homesick the second time around; maybe even love it after the third (three's a charm, right?).
Unfortunately I don't get to do it over again. No parents get to do over any of the things we now see could have (should have?) been done differently.
As grandparents, though, we do have the opportunity to put to use the knowledge gained from our parent fails. Which means I can—and will—encourage camp experiences for my grandsons. I'll wholeheartedly applaud my daughter who will certainly seek out opportunities for such before I even utter a peep on the topic. (She's a far better activity director for her kids than I ever was for her.) And I'll forward those camp press releases on to her when I see a perfect fit for my grandsons.
At seven, four and one, my grandsons are a tad young for residential camps at this point (or so says the overprotective grandmother/mother in me). The myriad day camp options, though—from sports galore to outdoor expeditions to art and music and more—seem infinitely more appealing than sitting in front of a screen of any sort could possibly be. I have no doubt my grandsons would agree.
Though I must admit, running through Minnesota farm fields and playing Indian in an abandoned stable still hold a special spot in my memories of summers past. And leave me hankering for campfire-grilled Hot Tamales now and again as well.
Perhaps I can contribute to the campfire experience for my grandsons by teaching them that—how to grill a Hot Tamale to perfection. I'll be sure to get Mom's permission this time, of course.
Lisa is a Colorado-based freelance writer. She publishes the Grandma's Briefs website, where she shares bits on life's second act and strives to smash the outdated "grandma" stereotype. Lisa has been married to the same man forever; together they have three adult daughters, one son-in-law and three adorable grandsons — children of the middle daughter and her husband. Lisa is easy to find online as she's known as GrandmasBriefs wherever she goes: Twitter (@grandmasbriefs), Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere.