Monday, June 27, 2011

Tips for Sending Your Child off to Camp

My son returned from camp today. He had a great time. He's already planning on going back next year.

Having worked full-time at a camp for almost five years (plus many summer in high school and college), I thought I'd share some brief thoughts on being successful at sending your child off to camp:

1. Raise them to be able to handle being away from you. Instill them will self-confidence, common-sense and a healthy fear of harmful things (our job as parents, after all, is to raise them to be able to live on their own as successful adults).

2. Don't tell them to call you if they get homesick. Write to them, but don't call them. And when you write, only talk about what they're doing at camp. Don't mention how much you miss them or what fun things they're missing out on at home. Just focus on the new friends and the fun they may be having at camp. Most homesickness is created by parents. Their counselors, while trained to deal with homesickness is good ways, have plenty to deal with as it is.

3. Talk up camp ahead of time--focus on all the fun things they'll get to do, new skills to learn, new friends to make, etc. Don't focus on your own fears or concerns.

4. Help your child prepare. Teach them to roll up their sleeping bag, turn on a shower and bathe themselves, how to spend their money wisely (budgeting over a few days), etc. And don't be upset if they come home without having rolled up their sleeping bag, not showered and used all their money on candy.

5. Have your child pack their own suitcase/bag as much as possible. They're the ones responsible for bringing everything home--they need to know what's in there. And if they pick out their outfits, they're more likely to wear them (I know plenty of kids who don't change their clothes during the week.

And this is a bit late at this point, but maybe keep this in mind for next year: try and attend camp together as a family before hand if you can--even if just a visit. Our Bible camp has several family camps. One is over Memorial Day weekend where you attend for a minimal fee in exchange for helping get the camp ready for summer.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Camper

Confession: I'm saddened how easily my son left for camp this morning. I'm also thankful.

He's usually the sensitive one who cries when he has to be away from us. This morning we put him on the bus for Bible Camp (two hours away). It's the first time he's able to go away by himself. Alone. Except that one of his friends from church was with him. They were sitting together on the bus. Waving to us. Smiling and laughing. No tears. Not on his part, at least.

He'll be seven in two weeks. I guess he's growing up.

His younger brother, however, was crying quite a bit as the bus pulled away. Which is funny in a way since he's gone through two years of being alone with me while his brother is at school. He's been fine the rest of the day, though.

I think the hardest part is not being there to experience everything with him. To encourage him. To protect him. To see his joy.

But I'm grateful he was excited to go to camp by himself (even before his friend from church signed up). I'm grateful I don't have to worry too much about him while he's gone. I'm thankful for the experience he'll have.

I just hope he remembers to bring home all his stuff.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First Harvest

Confession: I'm not fond of radishes.

We planted them in the garden anyway as they're one of the first crops ready to harvest. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the sake of achievement. Sometimes you need the quick encouragement in order to persevere through the long haul (because, let's face it, it'll be a while before that squash is ready).

So the boys pulled a few of the radishes (red and white) out of
the garden yesterday. And they were excited to do so. Even if they didn't particularly like the way the radishes tasted. (If you've got a good way to eat radishes other than raw, let me know. I'm game for trying something different. I've expanded my vegetable repertoire quite a bit, but I still haven't found a way I like to eat radishes. Or beets.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Confession: Sometimes I'm a terrible father. I can get too engrossed in my own pursuits to pay attention to my boys. I can be short-tempered. I can discipline them unreasonably.

Still, I'm there. And in many instances, that's a lot more than most kids have. And I hope that for the majority of the time I'm doing a decent job. That's all we can do. We can't see into the future and know how our kids will turn out--if they will succeed or fail because of what we've done in their lives. We can only hope. And try our best.

As dads, we will fail at times. But if we don't give up and just stand by our kids, supporting them in all they do and loving them unconditionally, steering them toward what is good and away from the bad, giving them the foundation they need to do well on their own, then we've done a large part of our job.

And I'm extremely grateful for my wife who made me a father. A huge part of being a good dad is loving your wife. And I love her immensely.

It's not so much about what we buy for them and the fun places we take them--though those memories are pleasant to have--it's about being there for them and being an example they can live up to.

My dad wasn't perfect, but he did well. He was there for me and taught me a lot. He's still there for me--as well as for my boys. And I'm grateful. I hope that legacy continues.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Signs of the Times

My 4 1/2 year old taped this sign to a tree in our yard today. Apparently, he wasn't happy that some of the neighborhood boys were in the tree. So he came inside, printed a sign and grabbed some tape. It reads:
I guess he has declared the tree to be his (mainly by merit of it being the one he can climb)--and where he has his "alone time."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Time!

We're now in our third day of school being out. I'm looking forward to the summer ahead (especially when I'm done watching my niece and nephew in a week. I love them dearly, but it will certainly free up our weeks). I'm looking forward to trips to the beach, museums, bike rides, picnics, parks, and so much more.

Today we went fossil hunting at Lilydale Park. My wife's group of women geoscientists set it up and invited a lot of people. It was fun. The boys collected bucket-fulls of fossils. I got a little sun-burned on my neck. We had mud all over.

That's summer fun. And we've got weeks ahead of us!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Of Two-Wheelers and Motivator

Confession: Sometimes I have a hard time knowing when to encourage and build confidence and when to make my kids do something when they don't want to.

About a month ago now the boys wanted to work on getting their training wheels off their bike--mostly the 4-year old. To be honest, he was riding a bit with them off last summer, but in the midst of our move and everything we didn't get back to practicing, so the training wheels were on through the fall. And so this spring, after a bit of riding around with training wheels, he determined he was ready to get them off.

My almost-7-year old also wanted them off. Kind of. At times. And at times he was content with riding with training wheels forever. He sometimes only likes to do things if he's able to do them well. And, as we all know, learning to ride a bike takes a lot of practice and often comes with some accidents. And he didn't want to go through all that--especially the falling part.

So we kept encouraging him. We knew he could do it if he kept trying. We knew he'd enjoy the freedom of not having training wheels. And we were hoping for some bike trips this summer. So we kept trying to build up his confidence.

That didn't necessarily work, though. He was still content to not learn to ride a two-wheeler. So, I admit, there were times when we almost forced him to try. Bike riding is a life skill. It's something our family does. We weren't going to let him not learn. But that didn't necessarily work either.

I think it was a combination of confidence-building, making him do it and also seeing that his younger brother was doing it well. Maybe envy is the strongest motivator.

Whatever worked, worked. And both boys have been riding continuously the last month (seriously--my 4-year old rides the sidewalk around our yard and then through the gates as often as he can). Yesterday we had our first "long" trip from school to the library to home. It was just over a mile. They were on the sidewalk mostly as we still need a little more practice and time to learn the rules of the road before they take to the streets. But there's hope for some fun rides this summer.