by Eva Gruenberg
Much of our “off-season” is spent educating others about the camp experience, as we talk to prospective families, new staff members, and vendors. Our conversations are centered on what we really do at camp, how we do it, and what makes our camp special and unique. We love having these conversations, and we are able to share and explain what we take pride in, believe in, and why we love our camp dearly.
Often when talking to new families, we notice a common, more frequent trend; something I would like to call the “Inter-Camp Relationship.” It’s when one parent has attended camp, they love it, believe in it, and immediately want their child to have a camp experience. The other parent is not quite sure of what this “having my child go away for the summer” really means. The camp-going parent will immediately ask questions about campfires, trips, and Color War. All in that excitement of what they remember from their camping days, while the other parent may still be thinking in more logistical terms. “How does it work for my child to be living with 10 other people?” is perhaps a question they might ask. These types of questions are good questions. And we are in the unique position to be sharing about our camp experience on both levels from the dedicated camp fan to the novice.
Personally, I am a product of an “Inter-Camp Relationship.” My Mother traveled by train from Memphis, Tennessee to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to get to her childhood camp. She continued on as a counselor and borrowed my sleeping bag when my camper days were over to attend a reunion at her camp. She still remembers her grandmother’s first question to the camp director sitting in her living room: “How cold is the lake?” (You can imagine the joy I felt when a parent asked me that same question this Fall. It was truly a full circle moment.) She lived it, loved it, and knew immediately her own children would go to camp. My father never attended overnight camp. In his mind his week-long retreat for youth leadership during high school was his closest thing to camp until he started attending 10 consecutive summers of visiting days for his own children.
Wherever you and your spouse might fall on the continuum of the “Inter-Camp Relationship”, here are suggestions and ideas to help in the camp decision making process:
- For the camp-attending parent share with your spouse those life-changing memories, break out the yearbooks and explain why these memories are still with you after all these years.
- Explain how camp impacted you to navigate decisions you made later on. How was your transition to college and your career choices inspired by your camp experience?
- What specific qualities made your camp right or not right for you? And then which of those qualities will be a right fit from your own child? For example, did you have a co-ed camp experience, but think your child will do better in a single-sex environment?
- What skills and character traits did you gain at camp and don’t think you would have gained anywhere else? Which of those skills and traits do you want your own child to have?
- What character traits do you see in your own child that will be strengthened and improved by the camp experience?
I hope that by sharing these memories in a real insightful way both parents will not only see and reaffirm the value in the camp experience, but maybe you will learn more about your own spouse by re-connecting with these camp memories. Who knows you might even feel better about understanding why certain songs always need to be played louder and why grilled cheese and tomato soup turns into a conversation about the camp dining hall.
Take this time to truly understand camp and what it will mean for your family. Our best hope is that the child will become a camp-loving parent that will know immediately that their own children will be attending camp.