Last weekend we dropped our almost 15 year old off to work at summer camp. I haven’t heard from him in days but that’s how I know my teen is living his best life at summer camp.
We spent so much of the past year in such close proximity. Just like every other family, we lived and worked just steps away from each other. We ate every single meal together for months and knew the activities of each family member. The most privacy my kids had was when they shut their bedroom doors which they did frequently.
Kids Need Summer Camp This Year More than Ever
Not hearing from my child in days is the opposite of parenting through the pandemic but that’s ok. I’ll always appreciate the time I had with my two teens, but the pandemic prevented them from having independent experiences away from us that they need to grow into confident individuals.
After so much time together, Thomas is ready to be on his own. He ended the school year and quickly transitioned into camp mode. He started packing for 4 weeks of sleepaway camp the same day he logged out of his last Zoom class, a sure sign he was ready for something different!
As a counselor in training (CIT) at Goshen Scout Reservation, Thomas is spending part of his summer in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. He’s outside practicing leadership skills as he forms in-person connections with 300 other campers each week. Activities include camping, swimming, hiking, and other things he loves but didn’t get to do last summer when camps stayed closed.
The area where he’s spending his time is pretty remote. Sometimes there’s a single bar of cell service and connecting to wifi means trekking to the camp office to connect. Being so unplugged means I probably won’t hear from him but maybe that’s a good thing.
Summer has always served as a reset for our family. The time apart, the more relaxed pace, ability to do things different from activities during the school year, helps our kids grow. As hard as it may be to not know how he’s doing and what he’s up to, it’s important to let go. I’m accepting this developmental milestone and trusting that he’ll do just fine like I have so many times before.
When the day came for camp drop off, there was no dawdling like there was during virtual school. Thomas rose quickly and finished putting a few last things in his bag.
Then he put them in the back of our Toyota Venza Hybrid, graciously on loan from Toyota for the week. We set our route, turned on Sirius XM and were off.
Suburban sprawl ended as we headed west and then turned on 81 to head south. Our drive paralleled Skyline Drive while farms flanked the other side of the road. The views were gorgeous out the car windows and through the panoramic roof. Though the day was steamy, the vented seats kept us cool and comfortable during our 3.5 hour drive.
We weren’t too far from home, but I hadn’t traveled this way in a long time. The last time I drove this route was during a cross country trip during college. I wondered how much my parents worried about me during my independent adventure almost 25 years ago.
Our car ride was relatively quiet until we got closer to camp. As we pulled into the campgrounds, Thomas became more animated. He shared memories from previous years at camp until we pulled into the camp office and put the car in park.
He led the way into the camp office and met the summer camp director. As Thomas answered the director’s questions and turned in his camp paperwork, I had a flashback to the first time I ever dropped him off at camp as a preschooler.
He was excited to attend the same camp his sister but was hesitant. I remember us standing at the check in desk as his wide eyes took in the scene. Together we walked hand in hand to his program area where he was welcomed by camp staff. They ushered him to an activity to make saying goodbye easier on both of us.
That little boy who reluctantly let go of my hand so many years ago is long gone. The teen striding through the woods ahead of me exuded confidence. He introduced himself to fellow staffers and took his belongings from the car to his tent site.
We offered to help him get set up, but he said he was ok. He gave us each a quick goodbye hug before finding a broom to sweep leaves off his platform. I wanted to linger to make sure he was ok but in my heart, I knew he was.
My husband and I climbed back in our Venza and drove away knowing he was exactly where he needed to be. We haven’t heard from him since.
Even though I’ll be returning to pick up my teen after weeks at sleepaway camp, rather than returning after just a few hours to retrieve my preschooler from day camp, I know he’ll have a lot to tell me about his time away.
I find myself wondering the regular mom things like if he’s getting enough to eat, what his role is as staff, and if he’s seen any bears yet. Yes, bears! There are bears at camp but thankfully he’s seen them before and knows how to deal with them.
But no news is good news. I know if I’m not hearing from him, he’s doing just fine. After all, I’d rather have no contact with him than get a call from the camp medical director!
There are plenty of moments when I find myself wishing he was here. I find myself missing our shared eyerolls at his dad’s dumb jokes or laughing at Goldie the Dog’s ridiculous antics. I know he would have really appreciated how she stuck her whole head in a paper bag to eat fries out of the bottom of it but can’t wait to tell him all about it in person.
Huge thanks to Toyota for the loan of the fabulous Toyota Venza Hybrid that was the perfect vehicle for camp drop off. Having a hybrid for our long drive helped us save money on fuel costs and the spacious trunk held weeks worth of gear for camp. The panoramic roof allowed us to take in the stunning scenery during our drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
For more information about the Toyota Venza Hybrid:
- Visit the Toyota website to check out the models and features
- Check out the Toyota Venza playlist on YouTube
- Get the latest news through their Facebook page or Twitter
- See glamour shots of the entire lineup of vehicles on the Toyota Instagram
All opinions are my own. Travel and experiences mentioned in this post were personally paid for.