Some lessons are best learned at summer camp

I have friends who went to summer camp - out-of-state camps in beautiful locations like Colorado and North Carolina and New Hampshire.

My own summer camp experience was limited to the kind offered by the park district. Money was tight when I was a kid. Traveling out of state - or even out of town - for camp was not a possibility.

So when Ainsley said, toward the end of third grade, that she wanted to go to sleep-away camp, I was excited that we would be able to send her.

She had been watching "Bunk'd" on the Disney Channel and had somewhat exaggerated notions of the amount of unchaperoned time that occurs at sleep-away camp. We found a camp (within driving distance to avoid the added cost of plane fare) and signed her up as quickly as possible.

This Sunday we will drive Ainsley to Holland, Mich., for her fourth weeklong stay at Camp Geneva.

I think we all want to give our kids opportunities we didn't have, but that's not the only reason I wanted her to go away to camp.

I remember an overnight camping trip with my Brownie troop, during which I became very homesick. One of the moms asked me if I usually slept with my parents (looking back, I realize now what an intrusive question that was). The answer was no. But as an only child, I think I felt more tethered to my parents than I might have if I had had siblings. Anyway, it was a rough night.

With Ainsley being an only child, I didn't want her to experience the same difficulties with spending nights away from home. The earlier she went to sleep-away camp, Dan and I reasoned, the less traumatic it would be.

We were lucky it all worked out. Despite a cabin-mate who was having a very difficult week (so bad that we were pulled aside by the counselor for a sidebar at pickup), Ainsley had a good time.

The following year, camp was even better, and last year was the best trip of all. She almost didn't get to go, as the pandemic forced the camp to cancel its first five sessions. By sheer luck we had signed her up for session six. She made such good friends there that we met up with them while we were vacationing in Saugatuck the following month. One of those friends will be at camp with her again next week.

We could not be happier with the camp. Its location along 1,200 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline is stunning, and its Christian focus offers a wonderful boost to the lessons she learns in Sunday school during the rest of the year.

Someone asked her a while back whether she gets homesick at camp.

"Yes," she replied.

"But it passes."

What an amazing lesson for her to learn. Feelings - even strong ones - will pass.

This summer she will move from the Shores camp for elementary school kids to the Pines camp for middle-schoolers, located just down the street on a wooded site. Many of her activities will be the same - the morning polar bear plunge, songs and skits, Bible study and games. She also have the chance to tackle the climbing tower and jump on the "blob," go kayaking or paddle boarding, play disc golf and more.

Ainsley has some apprehension about moving to a different location. She's not sure about swimming in a man-made lake and she has never enjoyed being the youngest in a group of kids.

She might have moments that she wishes she was back at the Shores camp. But she learned there that these moments will pass.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean