Coming Home With More Than Just Dirty Laundry

  • As you prepare to send your son or daughter off to camp for his or her first summer, it’s inevitable that a million different things will run through your mind. What will living in a bunk be like? Is my child really ready for camp? How will they know where their activities are? Will they make a new best friend? So many of the things, things you may view now as potential stumbling blocks, turn into the triumphs of a new camper. What you will learn from a few vague letters and pictures of their smiling face on the website, is that the independence they gain will be the most important thing they bring home.

    So what are eight things they will learn at Camp Tel Noar this summer?DSC_0694

    …as soon as their feet touch the grass at Tel Noar, they are immediately welcomed by hugs, cheers and the friendly smiles of new bunk mates and excited counselors. So quickly, our campers learn that camp is fun and they are surrounded by new and future friends.

    …teeth will get brushed, beds will be made and campers will be showered. Even we are often impressed with the patience, skill and commitment that it takes for our counselors to take these things on. It might seem like an impossible task to get 10 eight year-olds to brush their teeth twice each day, but somehow even the seemingly little things get done. Somehow counselors find time to  encourage the hair brushing, face washing and bed making. Eventually these “chores” become badges of personal growth and the routine becomes a sense of belonging.

    … sleep happens. Reluctant sleepers who crawl into your beds at night learn how to be self-soothers. Call it exhaustion from a long fun day or excitement for tomorrow’s surprises, but when the OD checks in to make sure that bunks are quiet and asleep, they really are. Sleeping in a communal space is a worry that we hear from many first-timers. Campers learn that they can put themselves to bed comfortably, and for our youngest, that feeling of success can be a huge confidence booster.

    Camp_Tel_Noar_2015_3414…they will make a new best friend at camp. It may not be the person you expected. Parents can often spend so much time planning their children’s social calendars that we structure their friendships. At camp they get to choose who makes them smile and laugh. Camp provides our children with a safe and supportive place. It gives them the space to reflect on their own strengths and teaches them how to seek out the qualities in another person that are important to them. It is these friendships that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

    …new interests will be developed. You might hear your son or daughter tell you that they like playing the guitar, building a rocket, hurling a lacrosse ball or starring in the camp-wide play. They spend 10 months dabbling in extra-curricular activities and 2 months choosing other ones. Where else are you going to learn how to water ski, how to shoot an arrow or how to cook over an open fire? Every day’s excursions are priceless events. Trying new things teaches children to expect the unexpected and thrive outside out of their comfort zones.

    …the Tooth Fairy comes to camp. Children learn that other people besides their moms and dads care for them too. Camp Tel Noar has lots of “mom & dads.” They are the people who make sure that no stone is left unturned and every need of our campers’ is met. We love those kids like our own, because after all, they truly are our summer family.

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    …everyone finds something to eat at camp. Even the pickiest of eaters finds something to enjoy. Sitting down to a meal with a family of friends is a valuable experience that creates something magical. “How was your day?” is often met with enthusiastic, elaborate stories of today’s adventures. Very quickly, our campers figure out that their mixed table is another place to connect rather than just the place they eat. Children learn the value of family meals and that talking about your day, setting and participating in table routines, and having a place to just come together, creates an environment that is hard to replicate. It is this feeling of belonging that reinforces the sense of community we value so much at camp.

    …Face time will have a whole new meaning. Cards and floor hockey will be played in the chugs, songs will be sung and your child will learn to exist without an electronic device. They will even learn to remember fun times without a selfie or Snapchat.

    Individually, each of these eight lessons are wonderful, but together, the experience of a camper’s first summer can be transformative. The self-sufficiency they learn becomes their self-esteem. So as you unpack a summer’s worth of dirty socks and old tennis shoes in August, think about the steps those shoes took. After the laundry is washed, the towels put away and the art projects displayed on the mantel, the one thing that you won’t see in their trunks is their personal growth. You will notice it over time. Your eight year old will ask you for salad bar for dinner, they might call a friend in another state without being propted, they will brush their teeth without being asked multiple times, and they might even clear their own plates. These priceless gifts make all of your worries worth it, as you get them ready for the best summer of their lives!

     

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