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Posted: June 22, 2013 7:23 p.m.

Campers get a taste of independence

It is so much easier to do it ourselves.

Why waste 30 minutes having someone else do it two or three times, when we could have done it in 10 minutes?

But if you have a child or teenager in your life, sometimes you just need to step back.

Most of the time, we never even notice we’re doing things for a young person, such as signing him in at the doctor and filling out all the forms, even though he’s 13 years old.

Or parking way across the lot to run in and get a loaf of bread, when you could have let her run in the store.

Maybe you even clean up after each meal for the whole family, pick out clothes or dictate in which order things must be done, when really it wouldn’t matter.

These mostly seem like nice gestures, but your child is losing a chance to learn independence.

Summer camp is one of those times I get to witness the most growth in this area.

Mom or Dad may carry the child’s suitcase all the way to the trailer, sign the child in and turn in a carefully counted out envelope of money to the camp bank, but once they hit the bus door, it all changes.

We get to camp and the kids claim their own luggage. Inevitably there are a few struggling to carry oversized bags, and several will wander off to find their cabins without even picking up all of their luggage.

Don’t worry; by that night when they still don’t have sheets on the bed, they’ll come looking for it.

A middle-school camper once demanded that I make her bed. I’m sure my laughing answer that she wouldn’t die sleeping on the bare mattress wasn’t what she thought she’d hear.

I was proud to see another middle-schooler step up and walk her through it — not do it for her.

That first night at dinner, some children are so excited they barely touch dinner.

Later on, they’re looking for the snacks they could have grazed on at home, like chips and cookies. There are none.

Or worse, they get a stomachache from dehydration.

They learn that it is important to eat and drink at meals, and to drink water all day, if they want to stay well for camp.

By midweek there’s a kid who says he is out of clean clothes.

He’s been changing into fresh clothes every time we swim or change for a muddy class.

His parents later say he also did this on vacation, but then it was just easier to go buy him a few new things rather than help him figure out what he could re-wear.

At camp, he learned to wash in the sink or select barely worn clothes.

Other kids are wearing some wacky combinations Mom probably didn’t plan on when she carefully and neatly packed that suitcase.

At the end of camp, campers tell me one of their favorite parts was being able to get themselves to class on their own. No lines marching quietly on the second tile of the hallway like ants.

They clean up the cabin every morning, making beds and wiping down bathrooms. They clean garbage off the ground and even straighten the clothesline.

Campers must remember to wear the appropriate shoes and clothing for swimming, canoeing and wet games.

They manage their own money, with the option to blow it all on Monday or save it for later.

If they purchase the wrong size T-shirt, they have to go back and exchange it themselves.

And you know what? Even 9- to 11-year-old campers can do all these things.

Sure, it seems like I have to repeat the reminders on wet shoes, sunblock and towels a million times a day, but in the end it is up to each youth to make it happen or learn from the lesson.

So what is it you could let your child or grandchild learn this week? Maybe they’ll make spaghetti, plan what to purchase for lunches or fill out their own forms somewhere?

I promise they (and you) will appreciate it one day, mistakes and all.

 

 

Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or tkimble@uga.edu.

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