I didn’t send my child to summer camp and this is what happened

I didn’t send my child to summer camp and this is what happened

You know those Facebook articles about how much better things were when we were kids? The ones that talk about the days when kids were bored and okay with it? The ones that remind us of the days when kids played outside, knocked on their neighbors’ doors (without texting first), and came home when the streetlights came on? The ones that give you conflicted feelings, making you want to give your kid those experiences, but at the same time reminding you that “things are just different now?”

This is one of those articles.

I think I’ve read about 300 of those articles. Each time, the nostalgia causes my brain to play ping pong between wanting to allow my 8-year-old daughter to experience her own self-defined growth moments, and worrying that if I set her free in the neighborhood, her trusting innocence will leave her kidnapped or run over by a car. I worry that if I don’t put her in enough after school activities, she’ll miss an opportunity to develop her talents and end up with a disadvantage compared to her peers. I worry that she will see the number of cool organized activities her friends participate in, and feel sad that she doesn’t do as much.

The fact is, modern parents are over-scheduling our over-orchestrating our kids’ lives. I’ve long been convinced that we’re screwing our kids out of some good human development because of our own fears and insecurities. I don’t think I’m alone.

My unintentional experiment

Our summer started off with a 2 ½ week trip to the west coast to visit family. My intent was to register my daughter for camp when we returned, just like her friends, and just as we had done the last two summers. But I never got around to it.. We returned from vacation and day by day, I’d remind myself that I need to get her into a camp of some sort, and day by day, she participated in iPad camp instead. My friends would offer suggestions, or ask if she would like to join their kids, but it never happened.

There were a couple reasons for this:

First, every time I asked my daughter about a potential camp, she was completely uninterested. I have to be honest, her disinterest was not a huge motivation for me to drop $300 a week on camp.

Second, our schedules allowed it (and for this, I know I’m lucky). Between Boca Super Dad’s flexible schedule, my ability to sometimes work from home, days off, and most importantly an amazing village, we didn’t need camp for the sake of childcare.

Third, I’m a procrastinator. Or maybe it’s just that I’m busy working and raising 3 kids? Either way, every time I intended to sign her up, I’d put it off until it no longer made sense.

Well guess what! The Facebook articles are right. I didn’t send my child to camp this summer, and this is what happened.

  1. She practiced creativity and honed her natural talents (on her own!). My daughter has a beautiful love for reading and writing. She loves planning and inventing. Her creativity bar is through the roof. While her dad and I worked this summer, she did too. She worked on her first screenplay (Spylish, the story of a group of fashionable young spies), wrote song lyrics, planned her dream wedding, planned and mocked up her dream house, wrote detailed letters to her favorite authors and actors, read, and just chilled.
  2. She rocked screen time. I admit, she got way more screen time than I’d prefer this summer. I would hate this a lot more if she was only watching junk. But majority of her screen time was spent watching Youtube hacks that taught her some really cool, useful and helpful things. One of my favorite moments of the summer was waking up to find her watching several Youtube videos on organizing your bedroom. She spent the entire rest of the day organizing, cleaning, and purging clutter. All without me asking. Screen time for the win!
  3. She learned how to feed herself. Even when Boca Super Dad or I were home, we were usually busy with work. In the beginning of the summer, she would frequently alert us with the whiny “I’m hungry,” each time she was ready to be fed. At some point, we started encouraging her to find food herself. And guess what? She did it. At this risk of exaggerating, I admit this is not perfect. But in the last week, I’ve witnessed several occasions where she found and prepared her own food. But wait, there’s more! She even cleaned up her mess and put away her leftovers. Rejoice!
  4. She dabbled in true independence. I feel ridiculous to have to call this out, but it’s kind of a big deal in 2017. Yesterday, with the subtle encouragement of my awesome friend, I allowed my daughter to walk to her friend’s house by herself. Granted, it was a two-minute walk, but it required her to cross a somewhat busy street by herself and be without supervision for the majority of the walk.

Its amazing how the subtlest things make the biggest difference. The confidence she gains by doing new things on her own fuel her with an independent mindset that she brings with her in everything she does.

So that’s it. We skipped camp, and the growth we saw in exchange was much more than we could ever buy for $300. Too edgy? No big deal? Let me know what you think in the comments.

<3 Boca mom

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