On Sending a Child to Summer Camp


Camp girlI never went to summer camp – that is not something that people do in Israel.

When I was little, I went to day camp in the next village over, and I remember making crafts and singing songs and going to the beach. Fun, but hardly life-changing.

Here in Manitoba, the attitude towards summer camp is very different.

My experience with it started when my oldest son, now 20, came home from school and informed me that he had to go to Camp Massad, because they had pancakes. He was just finishing Grade 3, and he went for five days that summer.

When those five days were up, I met him as he was brought back from camp. He was wearing a home-made costume with a cape, and he bounced out of the car and announced, “The boys in my cabin were really mean to me, but I love it, and next year I want to go for two weeks.”

Thus began a love affair that lasted twelve years, including three years when he spent all summer there as a counsellor, with those mean boys long gone. This summer my daughter is going for a total of five weeks. Before she left, she was just exploding with excitement.

They come home brown, dirty, exhausted and happy, and noticeably taller. They come home reluctantly, because camp is so much more fun. Who wouldn’t want to be parented by 17-year-olds?

They come home with a new independence, with experiences I do not share and close relationships with people I do not know. It is the beginning of their separation into individuals, with their own secret lives.

The bonds they forge at camp run deep – I know adults who still speak that secret language among themselves, and my children respond to it effortlessly. There are special camp names that must never be used anywhere else. I will confess to being somewhat bemused by at all, but I do know that it is rooted in love, and that is a good thing.

The best thing about Camp Massad is that no child will be turned away – there are subsidies available through Manitoba Camping’s Sunshine Fund, and from the camp’s own grants and other funds.

Do you send your children to summer camp? What is it like for you? Or have you held back because of the perceived cost? Let me know!

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