Sunday, September 5, 2010

Family Camp

When I was a kid, I remember a few summers spent away at camp. I recall the silly campfire songs, the cafeteria food, and the large number of children with very little adult supervision. We made plastic lanyards, rode horses, slept in cabins with teenagers in charge, wrote letters home and rarely showered. My mom came and visited on weekends, and we were away for weeks. Since I lived in the city, and my mom is not a woodsy fan, this was probably my main childhood exposure to the woods.
While I had fun at my childhood summer camp in the mountains, my kids have not yet had the overnight away camp experience. They've been camping dozens of times, and lived in the woods most of their lives, but they've never "been to camp." Someday they might, but the right opportunity just hasn't come around yet. I am one of those overprotective mothers' who wouldn't just send young children off with strangers, and the low number of adults in charge that I loved as a kid isn't so much of a selling point for me now. Besides, we've always been too busy enjoying summer as a family to have any time to pack them off.
They did however, get a taste of the camp experience recently when group we know rented out a YMCA campground at the end of the season, and we "went to camp" as a family. It was a church group, and my dear husband is always afraid they are going to try to convert him, so he opted not to join us. The kids and I had a great time though. We had our own family cabin, and while it was probably the most recently painted structure, the wear and tear of dozens of kids over the summer really showed. There are so many things you never notice as a kid, like how tiny the cabins are or how trashed everything is when so many other kids use it. Regardless, we didn't come for luxury, we came for for fun, and we had it.
 We did the evening campfire, complete with smores, skits and silly songs.
We went out in a canoe on a lake, and despite the fact that it leaked and took on a bit of water, we had a nice paddle. There were some heavy patches of lake weed which sort of freaked us out when our paddles started getting stuck in it, and of course the kids came up with lots of scary things that could be in those reeds. After learning to steer clear of lake weed, we found some geese and plenty of fish. We observed the beauty in nature and breathed in the fresh mountain air.

We also made camp style arts and crafts like pine cone people with mossy hair and googly eyes and leather bracelets with designs that we punched into them. We ate cafeteria style food. There was ping pong and archery, and even though we have both of these at home, and in much, much less worn condition, playing with them under the pines lent a different feel to the experience. The same for basketball, and tether ball. There was also a game where you rolled a pool ball down a long table and tried to knock the rest of the pool balls in a slot. We played a lot of it, but I never caught what it was called.
Our couple of day family trip to camp brought back lots of fun memories for me. I was able to look up my old camp on the internet and see how much has changed and how much is the same. I was also able to see how outrageously expensive kids camps are. That makes me even less excited about the future prospects of my kids heading to one. I think I'd rather save for a trip to the tropics, and when I mentioned the fact that we could almost buy a ticket to Hawaii for the cost of a week at camp, they agreed the tropics were the way to go. Whether they go off to camp on their own in the future or not, I'm glad we had this camp experience as a family for now.