Six months ago, my 11-year old little boy brought home a sign-up form for the state-run department of fish and wildlife summer camp. Five days away from Mom and Dad. No phone calls. No text messages.
And of course, he wanted to go. So, against our better judgement we said yes. Now the time is upon us, and Mom and Dad are struggling.
I understand that many kids consider summer camp a rite of passage. My wife is adamant that the experience changed her life for the better, and it wasn’t until I told my parents about this development that I learned my father had attended camp as a child.
For myself, I never attended summer camp, so I don’t have that life experience to fall back on. Despite her earlier acceptance, with the time upon us, my wife is struggling as much with understanding how to let go as I.
It’s a balancing act–this parenting thing.
Like many fathers, I consider my most sacred responsibilities to be protecting and providing for my family. Some may call it “old-fashioned,” but it’s who I am. So, figuring out how to best meet these responsibilities is what drives most, if not all, of my decisions as a parent. So how do I, as the father, balance the need to protect my children against their need to develop confidence, gain independence, and learn self-reliance outside of my protective wings?
For me, this process started with a long conversation with my son about his interest in summer camp. I learned he was motivated by the following:
>> A strong desire to earn his hunter’s safety card. I am an avid outdoorsman, and he wants to participate in that interest as he gets older.
>> A wish to make friends with a group of kids outside his school. Camp would give him the chance to get to know kids in the community, but from different schools.
>> A need to prove his independence. After all, as he informed his mother, he can take care of himself; he’s 11 now.
After much reflection, I can appreciate his need and desire to attend summer camp. At the ripe old age of 11, gaining a measure of independence, and a separate identity, away from Mom and Dad is important. It’s just as important to us to assure he can meet that need in a safe, controlled environment. Fortunately, a little investigation shows that the camp is staffed by personnel from the department of fish and wildlife who have all been background checked. They have over 200 kids a week come through the camp, every week for 10 weeks out of the summer, and have been doing this since 1939.
So, its with much trepidation that we’re letting him go. It’s as much a rite of passage for us as for him, and I full well suspect that we’ll lose more sleep than he does during this excursion, but he’s committed.
It’s not easy watching them grow up, but it’s what we do. I’m a firm believer in giving my kids the freedom to develop a measure of independence, but always with the knowledge that we’re close at hand if they need our help, so this is going to be tough.
For all of us.
[author][author_info]About the Author
Guest writer Greg Hayes is the author of Live Fit Blog, where he writes about fitting fitness into busy lives, and occasionally, being mauled by little boys. Check his work out for useful information on healthy snacks for weight loss, and tips for juggling the demands of family, job, and fitness.[/author_info][/author]