Dear Mountain Mama,
I’m trying to convince my 13-year-old daughter to go to camp, but she doesn’t want to go. As a child, my parents didn’t have extra money to afford the extras like summer camp. I want to expose her to as many outdoor activities as possible. Should I register her for camp anyway?
Just Want a Happy Camper
Dear Just Want a Happy Camper,
As parents, we want what’s best for our children. Our kids might not see it that way, especially when they are on the road toward adulthood. But parenting should be more like a benevolent dictatorship than a democracy, at least until kids turn 18.
My niece didn’t want to go to camp. My brother, who is one of those model parents who makes raising kids look easy, sat down with her and looked at several different options. She didn’t want to go to any of them. She was afraid she wouldn’t meet any friends. She didn’t think any of them sounded fun. In the end, even he was exasperated and told her if she couldn’t decide on a camp, he was going to pick one for her. That’s how she ended up at sailing camp last week.
After the first day, she came home and told him, “Thanks for making me go. I love it!” She had fun even though she had to jump into a river with jellyfish in order to pass the mandatory swimming test. I suspect being afraid and overcoming her fear actually made the experience all the more rewarding.
After the first week, she came home and said, “That was the best week of my life.” She made friends. She and her new friends got to sail a boat. A sudden thunderstorm caused the winds to pick up, which capsized their boats. The girls managed to right the sailboat themselves, and sail back to the dock before all the other campers.
As my niece told me about her day, there was a gleam in her eye. She had encountered nature on her own terms. She had a new connection with the river, and a certain confidence that she could handle what came her way.
Just Want a Happy Camper, you might have to endure some unpleasant pre-camp jitters in order to have a happy camper. Just remind yourself that in the process, your child will learn skills that will serve her well. Your responsibility as a parent is to provide the gentle push she needs to help her overcome her fears and take risks!
Looking into camp for your child? Check out our Summer Camps Guide!