Our kids are back from a week of camp. Right before it was time to send them, I almost chickened out. But I kept thinking of this bit of wisdom,”Parenting is about preparing your child for the road, not about preparing the road for your child.”
I’m good at road construction for my kids. I always believe they need me to help them navigate social groups, to encourage them to try new things, and to point out what God’s doing in their lives. But a week at camp destroyed my myths they need me as much as I think they do.
Here are the four most important lessons I learned from sending my kids to camp.
Parenting Myth Number One: I am in charge of my kids’ spiritual growth.
CAMP TRUTH: God is the author of your child’s faith story. I wrongly believe that my kids have had all the same a-ha moments I have and that their faith is exactly my faith. But they have had radically different experiences than me. They have unique spiritual gifts and have struggled in places I never have.
When your kid goes to camp, they have to articulate what they believe. This is when they separate their faith story from yours. This is when they start to realize God is telling a radically new story in their lives. At camp, your child will share her first testimony with a group of strangers. This will be another part of the story God is telling through her life. You won’t get to witness this one first-hand. And that’s okay.
Parenting Myth Number Two: I am in control of my kids’ personal hygiene.
CAMP TRUTH: At home, we buy toothbrushes that remind our kids to brush for one minute. Their showers include soap and shampoo. We insist their hair is clean and pony-tailed before they leave the house.
Let your kid go to camp for the week and you will both discover just how little they care about bathing, brushed hair, and clean underwear. The counselors have no rules about soap and shampoo. And guess what? The kids LOVE this.
One of our kids reported he drank daily Dr. Peppers and never brushed his teeth. Ah, well. I guess that first filling will bring home the message of “BRUSH WELL!” better than any toothbrush timer ever could.
Parenting Myth Number Three: I know my child better than he knows himself.
CAMP TRUTH: At camp, your kid learns to trust his own opinions. He discovers what he likes to do, on his own. This kind of growing up is the exact kind parents fight. We always want to steer our kid to the experiences we think are best for them. This week Sam chose Rumbleball over swimming (what I think he’s good at), or hiking (another family fave), or archery. At the end of the week, he was the camp Rumbleball champ so there you go.
When we picked our kids up from camp, the Self-Confidence Shine was all over them. It came from a week of them doing their own thing. The math is hard on this one. The more difficult the challenge plus the further they are from you when they do that challenge equals the highest self confidence. Camp brings kids exponential self-confidence.
You can’t fool kids. They know when you’re really holding the bike seat. Do your kids a favor and trust them enough to accomplish the really challenging thing. That hard-earned self confidence cancels out the six million times you cut their food for them.
Parenting Myth Number Four: I know what kind of friends my kid needs.
CAMP TRUTH:Making friends at camp is another step in the big stairway to adulthood. Your kid doesn’t chose her camp friends because you click with their moms or because they live next door. This is her first real chance to choose the buddy who she thinks is funny or kind or exciting.
Camp is all about introducing yourself to a group of people who don’t know the kind of house you live in or what your brother is like. It’s about becoming yourself.
You know what else camp is about? It’s about learning to live without your parents for a week. It’s about parents learning to live without their kids. It’s about growth for the whole family.
It’s about letting go, so when your kids come back to you, they’re more the people they’re going to become.
And what parent doesn’t want a glimpse of that?