TO CAMP OR NOT TO CAMP – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Camp

I always wanted to go camping. All my friends went camping. My brother and sister went camping. I so envied them.

I stayed home. My mother felt camp was where you sent a child that needed “the experience” of “being away” from home (like my clingy sister), or who had a troubled home life (like my brother). Since I didn’t seem to need those experiences and always managed to find something to do, I didn’t need camping.

Garry’s horse

But I wanted to go. I wanted to swim and be out in the country. All through August, every kid was gone for weeks at a time. It was lonely.

Many years later, I tried to explain it to my mother and I think she finally understood that “camp” wasn’t where you sent psychologically deficient children, but a place for normal kids to have fun. Play games. Learn to swim.

She had never considered that.

I suppose it was a compliment, but if ever I experienced a truly back-handed compliment, that was it.

I sent Owen to camp because I didn’t go. Not only did I send him to camp, but I sent him to the camp to which I would have given an arm and both legs to go. It was a horseback riding camp. He didn’t like it. Too rough and tumble.

We always try to give our kids what we wanted and it almost never works the way we intended it. You just can’t win.

We try so hard and somehow, we manage to get it at least a little wrong. Maybe that’s the way parenthood is. You never stop learning. I still haven’t stopped learning. I don’t think I could stop if I tried.

The dock at River Bend

As a child, I wanted freedom. The less adult interference in my life, the happier I was. The fewer parents around, the more I learned. If you gave me a heap of books and as many horses as I could wrap my legs around, I was in heaven.

That wasn’t what Owen wanted. By the time Kaity was growing up, I didn’t have the money to send her anywhere. And she was more like Owen insofar as she didn’t want to leave home and the idea of being with a bunch of kids she didn’t know was not appealing.

Lucky for her I didn’t have the money to send her anywhere!

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

23 thoughts on “TO CAMP OR NOT TO CAMP – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. My parents never sent me to camp, but we always had our kids go to summer camp…some summers just day camps, other summers sleepover camps. I think they loved it.

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  2. I lived in a “Christian” girl’s school after being in orphanage (I ran away ) so off I went to the structured life of Christianity and bible camps every summer. We went swimming and horseback riding, we had bible meetings by day and evening, but the afternoon was filled with fun activities, I won a scholarship to go to “Word of Life” camp for 2 weeks, a guy I liked was working there for the summer, he attended the church we went to; pretty much daily and twice on Sunday, so my intentions were infatuation based. My luggage was lost the day I arrived, I had what I wore upon arrival for 2 days, skirt and top, no shorts, or bathing suit, or sneakers, anyway I felt odd not having proper attire for the occasion , and after two days the guy I liked decided to leave the camp with a girl and attend a concert, he never returned during my stay, we spoke once, I found out he left by another counselor. I had a good time anyway, and I learned the bible (bible study everyday) made new friends, there was a long haired, handsome guy with a fur covered bible, that I became friends with, as well as several other couples, we went horseback riding and camped on the beach, we went boating everyday, took our lunch with us, and would fish…often we would stop to sit by campfire, snack and “bible study” the counselor’s were always with us.
    I was glad to finally be home, I liked that guy from our church but he was finding himself, as many of us were, he was rebelling against his parents, and the strict Christian upbringing, he got involved with drugs, hallucinogenics and such. His mother was my sponsor, someone that took one of us under their wing and invited us to their home on weekends, I went of course, he was there at times, never knew, so I took a chance.
    One evening during dinner he got under the table and was just acting weird, what did I know, probably drugs?
    I went to a dude ranch, cowboy Christian camp. It was all about horse back riding and caring for the stables, we also went camping in woods, riding horses to campgrounds and sleeping in tents, made breakfast in morning and rode our horses back to bible studies.
    Many of the kids from my church worked at the dude ranch, most of the guys were taking “Future Farmer’s of America” major at our high school, and had horses and cattle, they worked at farm every morning before school started, smelled like manure. I lived in Hollidaysburg, PA. The girl’s school I lived in was called Girl Haven. I lived there from age 14 until I was 19, and once I was not a ward of the state I was on my own, basically I broke my curfew (11 PM) and was told to leave, so I moved in with a counselor/friend from the girl’s school. (She was from a christian family as well, and also rebelling against the strict “rules” so she married a biker from “Hell’s Angels” later divorced, and started working at our school, we became friends, crazy times, we hung out with her x-husband, and the biker’s, we stayed at their club house….the place was metal cased to prevent bullet holes from penetrating. It was crazy, we did go to a quarry, with a gang of biker’s (Hell’s Angel’s), and make bonfires, cook and sleep out. Riding with the gang was exciting, scary. Ride like the wind!
    To make my camping story complete I will say this, I learned about God, and Jesus and religion, and how it affects people, some to the point of obsession, and causes guilt, and rebellion as well. There is good in believing in a higher power, and having faith, but it can’t be forced on anyone, and believing someone will be “a better person” if they are religious, and go to church, and do good deeds is crazy. Camping was just another place where Jesus was being taught, Jesus is everywhere, even at the camps! I was saturated in religion from dawn til dusk for all those years. Was it a good thing for me? Yes, it helped me through my teen years, and I took what I needed, and left the rest to the holy rollers, maybe they will figure it out, I am still learning.

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  3. I smiled through this entire post. I bet a good percentage of parents can relate. I’m also positive our adult children are telling all of their friends how we screwed up their childhoods by sending them to camp, or dance class, or art school, or on and on, and all we were really trying to do was give them nice things that we didn’t have access to. Ironic isn’t it? 🙂

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      1. I’m thinking there should be a plan whereby all adult children at say age 45 give refunds to their parents for all those ‘unwanted’ things that they hated and we sacrificed to pay for. You’ve got camp, I’ve got dance lessons, sports teams, family vacations, we can come up with a whole list. It would be a real bonus to spend on something we like. I’m thinking that won’t fly, but it makes me laugh to even think about it. 🙂

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  4. We went to a 2-week camp each summer for 3 or 4 years. I hated it! It was in the mountains, so I couldn’t swim in the sea; it was hot and dusty, and I never could feel clean, even though it did have showers. At the time, I thought my parents just didn’t want me underfoot all summer — maybe so, but there must have been better places!

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    1. I think a lot of camp choices are made based on affordability. Although there’s always a touch of getting free of the kid(s) for a couple of weeks, there’s also a belief that it’s healthy to get kids out to the country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean the kid likes the idea. We probably should ask the kids. We just assume we know better.

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  5. I don’t think camp is a thing in Australia the way it is in the USA. I first learned about them reading children’s fiction like the Donna Parker series which had two camp-related books. I didn’t really understand the concept that kids of all ages got sent off to camp for the whole summer. Personally, I would have hated the idea. I was shy, not athletic and frankly did not really like being organised all the time. It would have seemed too much like school to me. I refused to join the Girl Guides for the same reason. Still, for outgoing kids it was probably great and would teach a kid to be more independent I guess.
    My idea of school holiday fun was more time to read, play with my dolls or, when I was older, roam around the neighbourhood exploring and going to fetes and fairs. When I was old enough to go to the city alone I went to the city library, museum, the art gallery, the “big shops” or even the zoo. Part of the fun was being able to do that without adult supervision.

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    1. A lot of what camp is about is getting city kids out into the country, getting some fresh air, learning to swim, discovering trees and air. If you live in the country you might not understand how some kids barely ever see a tree or a piece of lawn or get fresh air. So for these kids, camps are a discovering that there’s another part of the world they never get to see.

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      1. I grew up in the suburbs but I guess most Australian cities have or had enough green areas for kids to get out and enjoy themselves at least before parents became too scared to let them go off on their own.

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  6. My grandson is 12 and went to sleepaway for the first time this year. He loved it and wanted to stay for the 2nd half(he couldn’t) but loved the freedom and did not miss the commotion and younger siblings at home at all. 🙂

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    1. I just wanted to be out in the country, go swimming, hang out with some horses. That would have been just greatI. At least I got to do a lot of that stuff as an adult. Took riding lessons and I already knew how to swim (we had a swimming pool at my high school).

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        1. It might have been the last school in New York that had a pool. It was built in 1928 when schools had things like that, but none of the new schools have them. We were also horribly overcrowded and had no help for handicapped people. But — we had a choir loft and an Olympic size pool and we all had to learn to swim and almost everyone learned to sing. We got the best and some of the worst too.

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  7. I know that; same experience here – or rather, non experience. In my case it was the ‘Ferienlager, or Ferienkolonie’ – we were so poor that even with a discount I couldn’t go. One year I was admitted (after much talking from my teachers with the organisers of the city) as a kitchen helper…. just so that I could be there with other children! The following children of my family didn’t WANT to go….. or hated it, just like Owen & Kaity! Can’t win them all, sometimes none of it!

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