Camp: To Go or Not To Go... A Mother's Dilemma

By Terry Stone

My name is Terry.
My kid would love camp.
I don’t want to send him.
Kid is sad.
Don’t be like Terry.

Yes, I am (or was) one of THOSE parents. I feel like the decision to send my sweet little precious angel baby son with severe hemophilia to camp was like a meme.

Why should I send him? He’s perfectly happy here with me. There’s lots of stuff to do here. No one will take care of him like I do. What if he has a bleed or is lonely or scared. I braved and survived family camp with him when he was 7 thinking that’s all the camp he’ll ever need. He’ll be so happy we went as a family. He’ll agree with me and not want to go back over the summer by himself. I braved the camp mattresses, camp songs and camp food for him. Now I was sure he would be done with the idea of summer camp. After all, how could I live without him for a week?!

Well, I was wrong, so wrong! For one, those camp mattresses weren’t that bad. Singing around the flag pole brought back fond memories of my own girl scout camp experiences. And the camp food - it was great!

So why was I dragging my feet? Who needs to grow up here? Why didn’t I send my son to camp the first year he was old enough to go? I had no excuse other than it was time for me to grow up. Yes, my worries and insecurities got the better of me. My son was ready. He wanted to go.

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Fast forward to 2019, Matt’s last year of camp. He has loved every minute of camp from day one when he was 9 years old. He has made lifelong friends and credits his yearly camp pilgrimage as relief from the mundane - enough to give him a true mental break from everyday life that he really needed. Camp helped him be who he is today; a confident, smart and empathetic young man who just finished high school a year early and is ready to create his future.

Camp is somewhat of a rite of passage. It’s where kids learn to socialize on their own, much different from the family reunion where you push your child forward as you say, “Honey, go hug your Aunt Joyce.” Sure, he loves his Aunt Joyce, but forced socializing is something kids NEVER forget. Don’t let that be their “remember when” story at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Trust me, you’ll regret it. Remember the meme, don’t be like Terry, send your kid to camp!

Every year my son came home from camp his voice sounded a little deeper, as he narrated tales of great adventures, recanted best songs sung around the flagpole that never made Billboard’s top 100, and told us about new friends, that through the magic of camp have become their own tribe. All are welcome, all are accepted. I watched my son blossom, each year a little wiser, a little more confident, and most importantly, very happy.

Child development professionals recognize camp as profoundly valuable to help children mature emotionally, socially, intellectually, morally and physically. In the bleeding disorder community, there are camps offered by regional chapters across the country and attendance is usually free.

As a parent, we are continually making decisions to care for our children. Camp checks many of the experiences children need in their overall development.

So, as the meme says… don’t be like Terry and delay an experience that will feed your child’s needs and soul, send them as soon as THEY are ready – they’ll let you know! Camp is magical and an experience that will profoundly nurture your child and the lessons and love will last a lifetime.