The best summer camp around
It's that time of year, when camp brochures flood our mail slot. Soccer camps, baseball camps, art camps, dance camps, technology camps, cake camps — the list goes on. We haven't gotten too into the D.C. camp scene, yet. Aside from a classic overnight camp that Zack goes to in the mountains of Pennsylvania, the kids haven’t found anything that strikes their fancy.
There is one camp, however, that requires no glossy brochure to get the kids’ attention. It requires no coaxing or prodding, no hard sell. They start asking about it as they tearfully leave Grandma’s and Grandfather's after Christmas break.
"When are we coming back to Grandfather's or Grandma's this summer?"
We affectionately call these camps Camp Grandma and Camp Grandfather. Every summer we pack the kids up and send them off to spend a week at each of the grandparents’ houses without us. For my husband and I, it is marital bliss; a walk back to a time before kids, a time to remember that we still love each other outside of child-rearing. For the kids, it is seven glorious days when they have the undivided attention of a few of the most important adults in their lives.
At Camp Grandma/Grandfather there are "classes" in cooking, baking, crafts, painting, woodworking, gardening, swimming, and so much more. Mornings begin with sweet cereal. Days are spent in swimsuits. Bunkmates are older cousins.
I remember as a kid spending time at my grandparents' house too. One of my grandmothers lived in the city. We would go to the parks, ride the bus, roller-skate on the sidewalks and go out to eat. Growing up in the country, it was such a contrast to my everyday life. I'm positive my love for the city was cultivated during these summers. By contrast, our kids who live in the city, spend their weeks in the country.
Camp Grandma also includes a course in family history. I recall baking treasured family recipes with my maternal grandmother. As we would measure the sugar, she talked about what it was like when she was a girl growing up in the post-Depression era, when sugar was rationed. Today, my mom spends time with the kids reflecting on the past and telling them about all of their ancestors hanging on the walls of her house.
I think grandparents are much better at taking the time to do this. We as parents have a tendency to be focused on meeting our kids' pragmatic needs, running the household, and thinking about their futures. We often don't take the time to reflect on the past. So aside from a school project that requires them to look into their family history, visiting with their grandparents is the best opportunity for our kids to learn about the history of their extended family.
Spending time alone with their grandparents is important too. In our absence, they have to rely on their grandparents for all their needs and develop a stronger attachment to them. It also gives them greater confidence in being away from us. They gain more independence, which has helped Zack when he goes away to sleepover camp for a week in the summer.
I hope to be a director at Camp Grandma someday. I'd like to follow the lead set by my parents and their parents before them, giving my kids and their spouses time to strengthen their marriages, develop strong relationships with my grandchildren, and pass on the knowledge held by our families.
For now I'm happy to take advantage of the benefits of such an amazing camp. So as February ends, like most parents in DC who have registered their kids' for summer camp, I guess I need to call up the registrars in Pennsylvania to make sure they still have free sessions. I'd hate to be locked out of the schedule because I dropped the ball on the registration date.