July 22, 2019
This blog is meant to be a compliment to you as a parent. I hope it does not seem to be pandering, but I want to suggest that sending your child to camp helps create lasting advantages. To explain this, please let me share a theory of parenting.
We are constantly shifting between two roles:
Each role is critically important. Also, each has its proper time.
For example, when we hold our newborn child in our arms, we are 100% in the “protect and provide” role. This precious human needs us for everything. We do not need to worry about skills or resilience or anything else.
But when our children become adults (hopefully when they leave for college, but certainly by the time they graduate college), we should be out of the “protect and provide” business. We want them to be self-sufficient adults. Even more importantly, they NEED to be adults. No one wants to be a child forever.
The photo that begins this article is from our family 17 years ago. Those kiddos had very different needs from the same foursome 2 years ago. [Note: they took this picture voluntarily. Seriously. They saw humor rather than humiliation in the process of recreating the older photo.]
So our challenge is how to spend our time between birth and graduation.
My belief is that every year we need to protect them less and prepare them more. Sure, we might talk with them about their arguments with friends early in life, but we want to do so in a way that will help them resolve their own conflicts later in life.
Helping with homework should be less about teaching the material and more about fostering effective study skills.
As our own children became more mature, we shifted from asking, “what can we do to help them be comfortable right now?” to wondering “what can we do to help them be independent a year from now?”
In my head, I see a graph that represents the percentage of parenting energy on the y-axis and the child’s age on the x-axis. [Susie Ma’am note: I have to live with these analogies all the time. Just go with it.] We start with 100% of parenting focused on protection, but over time that line decreases until it reaches close to 0% at age 18-25. Meanwhile, the “preparation” line starts at 0% and climbs as the child grows up. Ideally, the two lines cross during the teenage years.
But as I look at modern families, I see that many are slow to make this transition. Parents and guardians continue to focus on short-term comfort rather than long-term growth even into the teenage years.
Please do not think I am being accusatory of parents. We love our children and want what is best. I am a tad annoyed at the media that has the habit of amplifying perceived risks in the pursuit of ratings.
No, this is not an indictment of modern parenting as much as a compliment to camp parents. We are doing something that is a bit hard (having our children away-from-home) to build their independence and self-reliance. We are willing to send our children to a place that cultivates and fosters self-confidence and competence. Sure, there are moments of discomfort – some homesickness or a dispute with a cabinmate – but these experiences are powerful tools in preparing our children for life later in life.
Former campers thrive in college. They are the people comforting the homesick freshmen on their halls. They have practiced being away from home, advocating for themselves and managing their own schedule. They often end up in leadership roles.
So please feel free to take a bow. Or pat yourself on the back. Seriously, you deserve it.