week, I joined the legion of parents, who kissed their kids goodbye and sent
them off to sleep away camp.  Like so
many others, I was filled with mixed emotions: excitement over the freedom of
having a whole eight days to myself before my youngest returned home; and
sadness that my girls were gone and experiencing something fun without me.
remember my first time at sleep away camp like it was yesterday.  I was
shipped off to Camp Akiba in the Pocono Mountains for an entire summer.  When you lived back east, this was the norm
and no one batted an eye.  I have fond
memories of my experience and am grateful for participating in this rite of
passage that is so entrenched in our American culture. 
Today, camp is different.  Campers are more sophisticated and the
challenges for counselors are greater than just monitoring the canteens and
candy trunks.  Nowadays, they are more
concerned with stripping campers of their techno mentality and getting back to
While my girls are away at camp, I obviously
want them to have fun, but I also secretly have a personal agenda of what I’d
like them to gain, and get rid of, during their experience. 
1.  Gain: Independence. At camp, kids must stick to a
schedule.  They are obligated to organize
their belongings, keep their bunk neat, write letters, participate in
activities and basically follow all of the designated camp rules or suffer the
consequences. Get Rid Of: Laziness. In an age of concierge
parenting, it is very easy for kids to slip into the role of dependent where
mom and dad do everything and kids expect us to wait on them hand-and-foot. This
attitude is simply unacceptable at camp.
2.   Gain: Possibility.  Camp is an opportunity for children to
discover something about themselves that perhaps previously they thought was
not possible.  Get Rid Of: Fear. Camp is
an incredibly nurturing and safe environment enabling children to try new
things, to test limits and to let go of fear.   It is an excellent time to break out of their
comfort zone and take a few (reasonable) risks.
3.  Gain: Friendship. Camp is a wonderful time to
solidify old relationships and cultivate new ones. The environment thrives on
camaraderie, inclusion and close bonds where fellow campers learn to cooperate
with one another, help each other, and encourage fellow campers to be their
very best. Get Rid Of: Hostility. At camp there is no tolerance
for gossip, slander, or bullying of any kind. On the contrary, it is an ideal
environment for practicing kindness, consideration and “The Golden Rule.”
4. Gain: Interaction.  Good old-fashioned face-to-face communication
is the preferred method of communication at camp. This is an excellent
opportunity for kids to practice making eye contact and learning the subtleties
of reading facial expressions and body language.  Get
Rid Of:
Technology.  No television, no smart phones, no computers
of any kind are accessible at camp. 
There is nothing to distract campers except the sounds of nature and
possibly a little Justin Bieber playing on the counselor’s CD players.
5.    Gain: Quiet Time. At camp, there is an
enforced period daily where kids are encouraged to quietly engage in an
activity on their own without verbal exchange. This allows the mind to settle
down so that introspection can take place. 
Get Rid Of:  Stimulation.
Our children are in need of constant stimulation and it is to their
detriment.  They expect to be entertained
24/7 and as a result they are losing important self-soothing skills, as well as
the ability to discover and develop their own talents and interests.
Like so many famous camp movies from
“Little Darlings” to “Parent Trap” and “Camp Rock,” one thing’s for sure, my
girls will be gaining everlasting memories. Whether participating in a Friday
night talent show, dancing to music in their bunk with friends, or playing
color war on the field, they are sure to come away with a smile having achieved
a greater sense of self and a newfound confidence that will stay with them