Going to camp for the first time is a big deal — for parents and kids! But the rewards are worth saying yes to a new experience.
“The first time I sent my son to camp I cried and I didn’t want to let him go,” says Tamy Diaz. “It was so hard to send him away by himself, even with a group of kids and mentors.”
Think of all the firsts in parenting: the first tooth, the first step, the first day of school. As our kids grow and mature, there is so much letting go and growing we must do as parents at the same time!
Some things like getting that first tooth don’t require much thought on our part, but others ask us to make a decision about what is best for them. Going to summer camp is one of the big ones.
What? Send him away for a week?
Tamy Diaz is currently on our staff in charge of our community connectors program as well as co-leading Launch Pad for elementary school students. When we first met Tamy, her kids were part of our Launch Pad and Kids Create Middle School programs. She remembers very clearly when it came time for her son to go to summer camp.
“Mom always thinks the worst,” she says. “‘What if they get hurt? What if they don’t like the food? What if they need me?’ We want to protect our kids, but sometimes we can be overprotective, which is not good for our kids. We are afraid to let them experience something that we never got to do, but it is important for us to have to courage to break the pattern. There are so many amazing things that they get to experience by going to camp.”
The first time is always the toughest
Tamy knew she wanted her son to have this experience. Going to camp was something that she never got to do growing up, but she was so glad that she had the opportunity to let her son take that big leap into his first summer camp.
“He had such an amazing time!” says Tamy. “Letting him be in a safe place with his friends and leaders, knowing he was going to see outside where we live was so important to me. We aren’t able to travel so it was his chance to have a great vacation.”
After that, both Tamy and her son knew that they wanted to make summer camp an annual event. And when her daughter was old enough to go to camp, it was so much easier to let her go knowing that she would be in a secure, positive environment and experiencing so many amazing things.
Sage advice from one mom to another
“Every year we try to encourage parents to take a leap of faith and let their kids go to camp,” says Tamy. “Sometimes we want to keep our kids close to us thinking that we are going to keep them safe, but things could happen anywhere. We really want our kids to be able to see new things, experience new people.”
There are so many experiences that Tamy and many others have seen have a lasting impression on their children:
- Spending time with friends
- Enjoying nature
- Meeting new and different people (the camps include groups from other places)
- Participating in deep discussions with leaders
- Learning more about God
- Seeing new places
“We have to trust our kids and trust the mentors that are around them,” says Tamy. “They work so hard for our kids to be able to go to camp. If we don’t give them that first time, we will never know how much they will love it, and how much they will get out of it.”
Get ready to take off on a leap of faith
One of the lasting memories that Tamy’s daughter took away from camp was a parable about an eagle who had been raised with chickens and thought he was a chicken. He looked up at an eagle soaring through the sky and wished he too could fly like that. He didn’t know that he was truly an eagle until one day an animal expert came to the farm and helped him. He discovered that he was not a chicken and that he could fly!
“Every time my daughter tells the story, she remembers it so perfectly,” says Tamy. “Think big, and you can fly! So beautiful!”
Tamy’s son loved all the activities like the huge swing and the rappelling wall. He also excitedly described to her the leap of faith platform where the kids have to trust that their friends and leaders are going to catch them.
“It was really exciting and touching to hear him explain the leap of faith because we have to trust God that He will be there and guide us no matter what,” says Tamy.