When I was pregnant with twins, after the shock wore off, I started thinking of all the positives of two at a time.
One labor, instant family.
One bedroom, two mirrors.
Now, nine years later, I have two distinct, opinionated and quite vocal young ladies making every single decision from academics to toothpaste up for discussion. It is as though I had two people who didn’t even share a womb.
With summer’s approach, there are myriad ways to divide up the next three months so that we call come out with some lifelong, good memories.
For me, this is proving the most challenging time ever, not just because of the recession and watching our pennies, but because the world is a scarier place every day, and letting go is getting harder. And, now, it is further complicated by kids who argue and plot with more conviction than ever.
If camp is on the agenda, the next challenge is how to choose? And how do you ensure all the parties, camp directors not excluded, have a successful experience? The short answer is—ask them.
“I absolutely listen to my kids’ input when deciding on camps. If they don’t want to go, I won’t spend the time looking into it, or the money to send them,” says Susie Lambert, mom of Nathan, 14, Katie, 13 and Jessie, 11 ½. “It’s their summer memories they’re making, not mine.”
Chandra Barney says that the age differences of her two daughters, Alise, 12, and Myah, 9, often keeps them in separate groups, even if they are at the same camp and that she likes sports camps in particular because it gives kids individual time with coaches.
“If I can find something for them to do that revolves around something they love, I know they will have a good time,” Barney says. “Giving them options from camps you have already selected makes them feel like they have some say in how they will be spending their time. It ensures that you won’t be sending them off for a week of misery.”
Chris Thurber, clinical psychologist and youth development professional who crafted, “The Summer Camp Handbook,” stresses the importance of camp for growth.
“Kids will grow in ways they don’t even know,” he says in an online version of the book. Camp enhances self-esteem, encourages a sense of adventure, develops social skills, builds independence, physical and mental skills, lifetime friendships and self-reliance.
He advocates matching a camp with your home’s personal values and allowing children to participate in their fate for better adjustment.
Discuss. Discuss. Discuss.
“I absolutely listen to my kids’ input when deciding on camps. If they don’t want to go, I won’t spend the time looking into it, or the money to send them.”
Bellevue mother of three
The more a child can air concerns, including homesickness, the better the outcome.
He suggests planning how and when you will correspond throughout the camp and practice being away from each other, especially in the case of a sleep away camp. He provides great tips on everything from how to pack like a pro to soothing parental anxiety at www.every
Around here, there truly are camps for nearly every conceivable interest.
Riley, 16, and Connor Ann, 13, share a love of animals, “but my kids are so different,” says Noelle Clark. “Both kids are involved in 4-H, so camps are decided by what free time we have. I go over the itinerary and they decide which ones sound more fun.”
Emily, 10, and Sophia, 7, love music camps together, but one favored writing while the other, dance, says mom Kristi Vandenberg.
Amanda Seaward says camp choice often depends on schedules around work, but she looks at where friends and like-minded parents are sending their kids when deciding how daughters Caroline, 9, and Avery, 3, are going to spend their summer days.
Mom Maritt Wolfrom says there are too many cool camps and because many of them are expensive, “saying no is often the hardest part.” She appreciates the flexibility many of them offer.
“Multiple sessions to choose from are a plus,” she says of seeking summer fun for Kaia, 9, and Finn, 7. “Location also plays a role. We don’t live in Ketchum so driving north multiple times a week or day stinks. Often, we default to afternoons at the pool.”
As for keeping siblings together or apart, keeping them apart was unanimous, even by the experts like Thurber.
“It opens them up to meeting new friends and having new experiences and stories that they can share with the rest of the family in return,” explains Barney.
“Together if they want to be, apart if they want to be,” Lambert says. The rest is logistic dependent.
Parents looking back on how they handled things in regards to camps know they did alright when their kids have come of age and they want to go back and be counselors at their old stomping grounds.
“My kids have fond memories of going to various camps in and around the valley over the years,” Lambert says. “Now, they are old enough they can be counselors which they are excited about.”
The key is to remember that you cannot replicate your camp experience for your kids, so save the disappointment, and get their input, even if it is in stereo, like it is from mine.