Monday, June 11, 2018

Stepping Back In Time

Each year around this time, my household prepares for sleep away camp. The Princess and Banana Girl have been going to camp since their summers before third grade. At this point, we pretty much have packing down to a science and they have perfected the art of waiting as long as possible—each year waiting slightly longer—before shopping, labeling and packing. I’ve given up complaining or stressing because a) I know it will get done and b) they’re the ones who will be naked if they wait too long.

One of the best parts of summer camp is the no electronics policy. No phones or phone-like technology is allowed. This means that my girls learned to write letters, adjusted to the foreign notion that a letter written and mailed will NOT get an instant reply, and have been forced to solve their own problems (like how to avoid bears), since even if they ask me what to do I’m unable to give them an immediate solution.

They’ve also learned to entertain themselves the old fashioned way—reading, making string bracelets, paper crafts, and MadLibs. Basically, while my husband declares a childfree summer is like going back to 1998, for them, it’s like going back to the 1970s.

The lack of electronics teaches them to be present and to live in the moment. Their conversations aren’t constantly interrupted by texts and SnapChats. They don’t multitask and converse with camp friends and home friends, while picking the perfect filter for their Instagram. They focus on the person in front of them. They are free to be themselves without worrying that what they say or do, or how they look, will be memorialized forever in cyberspace.

And they love it.

Stepping back in time this way allows all of us to look back fondly at a more innocent time and transport some of those lessons from the past into the present or even the future. And this year, the time slip is even more bittersweet, as The Princess will be a counselor and Banana Girl a CIT. For the first time, they can take their love of camp—and their power-down habits that they’ve cultivated and grown to love—and teach them to their campers. 

Buying stamps at the post office (the new scratch-and-sniff ones, of course!) and picking out stationery takes on an added meaning when I consider the piles of letters I’ve saved since their first days of camp. Now they’ll be writing as staff, looking at their campers and passing on their knowledge of how to write a letter (you’d be surprised how tough this is).

The journals they keep during the summer connect feelings from one year to the next and provide a written record of how they’ve grown and changed—of course, I’m making an assumption, since I’ve never read them and for all I know they write about things I really don’t want hear about (like boys!!!), but I’m going to stay in my bubble and imagine my own story here.

Even the photos they take get printed and hung in their rooms. And while I often wish for them to experience boredom, which is impossible at camp when you’re running nonstop from breakfast to bedtime, the basic lessons they’re learning about who they are and what they want are invaluable.

And maybe this year, they’ll be able to pass some of them along to their own campers.

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