I just found out that New England was the birthplace of the American summer camp during the late 19th century.
Aside from face painting, barbecues, and flag cakes, what does summer camp have to do with July 4th? It has me thinking about the value of giving young people independence and time away from home. Especially since I've just come up for air from the land of trunk-packing and clothes-labeling for my kids' summer camp experiences.
According to Michael Thompson, Ph.D. psychologist and author of "Homesick and happy," camp offers kids crucial development experiences. Thompson claims that time away from parents can help children grow in ways they can't under their parents' watchful eyes. He says today's parents are "the most conscientious parenting generation, but also the most anxious." (For a really fun radio interview, listen to: Summer Camp Gives Kids Crucial Experiences)
The term "hovercraft parenting" was coined to refer to the mom or dad who is never too far from the action--just in case they need to swoop down for a save. The problem with that is that kids don't learn how to trust their own instincts and in turn they don't always develop the perspective to truly value the guidance that comes from involved parents.
I remember as a child when I'd be off all day during the summer, playing with my brother and friends and finding rope swings to fly through the redwood canyons near our home. But those days of unsupervised play are all but gone.
Summer camp provides similar freedoms for kids, while still under the supervision of responsible adults and counselors.
When I was in college, my mom let me travel to Japan for my job as an English teacher. And that was before cell phones and email! The opportunity to live and interact in a culture where I didn't speak the language and only had a bike for transportation completely changed my life. I know I relied more on my spiritual GPS than I ever had before.
For my kids, sleep-away camp has also provided an opportunity to learn more about their relationship with God and really put their prayers into practice. As a parent, I want my kids to value independent thinking, which is what I think prayer is all about.
I love this statement by Mary Baker Eddy: "The time for thinkers has come." Amen!
Have you sent a child off to sleep-away camp this summer--or some other independent activity? How has thought caused you to think about independence in a whole new way?
Ingrid lives in Framingham where she and her husband manage three busy kids, a Lab who's sniffed every trail at Callahan and a ragdoll cat. She blogs on spirituality and health and is also a Christian Science practitioner. You can see more on her website "Breaking Bread" at masshealthblog.com.