Friday, June 29, 2012

Sleep Away Camp – 5 Personal Traits for Kids to Gain and Get Rid Of

This week, I joined the legion of parents, who kissed their kids goodbye and sent them off to sleep away camp.  Like so many others, I was filled with mixed emotions: excitement over the freedom of having a whole eight days to myself before my youngest returned home; and sadness that my girls were gone and experiencing something fun without me.

I remember my first time at sleep away camp like it was yesterday.  I was shipped off to Camp Akiba in the Pocono Mountains for an entire summer.  When you lived back east, this was the norm and no one batted an eye.  I have fond memories of my experience and am grateful for participating in this rite of passage that is so entrenched in our American culture. 

Today, camp is different.  Campers are more sophisticated and the challenges for counselors are greater than just monitoring the canteens and candy trunks.  Nowadays, they are more concerned with stripping campers of their techno mentality and getting back to basics. 

While my girls are away at camp, I obviously want them to have fun, but I also secretly have a personal agenda of what I’d like them to gain, and get rid of, during their experience. 

1.  Gain: Independence. At camp, kids must stick to a schedule.  They are obligated to organize their belongings, keep their bunk neat, write letters, participate in activities and basically follow all of the designated camp rules or suffer the consequences. Get Rid Of: Laziness. In an age of concierge parenting, it is very easy for kids to slip into the role of dependent where mom and dad do everything and kids expect us to wait on them hand-and-foot. This attitude is simply unacceptable at camp.

2.   Gain: Possibility.  Camp is an opportunity for children to discover something about themselves that perhaps previously they thought was not possible.  Get Rid Of: Fear. Camp is an incredibly nurturing and safe environment enabling children to try new things, to test limits and to let go of fear.   It is an excellent time to break out of their comfort zone and take a few (reasonable) risks.

3.  Gain: Friendship. Camp is a wonderful time to solidify old relationships and cultivate new ones. The environment thrives on camaraderie, inclusion and close bonds where fellow campers learn to cooperate with one another, help each other, and encourage fellow campers to be their very best. Get Rid Of: Hostility. At camp there is no tolerance for gossip, slander, or bullying of any kind. On the contrary, it is an ideal environment for practicing kindness, consideration and “The Golden Rule.”

4. Gain: Interaction.  Good old-fashioned face-to-face communication is the preferred method of communication at camp. This is an excellent opportunity for kids to practice making eye contact and learning the subtleties of reading facial expressions and body language.  Get Rid Of: Technology.  No television, no smart phones, no computers of any kind are accessible at camp.  There is nothing to distract campers except the sounds of nature and possibly a little Justin Bieber playing on the counselor’s CD players.

5.    Gain: Quiet Time. At camp, there is an enforced period daily where kids are encouraged to quietly engage in an activity on their own without verbal exchange. This allows the mind to settle down so that introspection can take place.  Get Rid Of:  Stimulation. Our children are in need of constant stimulation and it is to their detriment.  They expect to be entertained 24/7 and as a result they are losing important self-soothing skills, as well as the ability to discover and develop their own talents and interests.

Like so many famous camp movies from “Little Darlings” to “Parent Trap” and “Camp Rock,” one thing’s for sure, my girls will be gaining everlasting memories. Whether participating in a Friday night talent show, dancing to music in their bunk with friends, or playing color war on the field, they are sure to come away with a smile having achieved a greater sense of self and a newfound confidence that will stay with them forever.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father’s Day Etiquette – Don’t Give Dad The Shaft

When it comes to celebrating a day for parents, somehow dads seem to fall on the short end of the stick.  Father’s Day is paid about as much attention as the red-headed step-child sitting in the corner. 

Mother’s Day, however, is a very different story with the build-up beginning months in advance!  Dads everywhere scramble for brunch reservations or spa appointments to ensure their better-halves are pampered and tended to on their special day.  This delicate showering of affection is not necessarily out of love, but out of fear that if they do not do everything in their power to ensure Mother’s Day is unique and special, heads will roll and someone’s gonna have to pay!

I happened to ask several fathers over the past week what their plans were for Father’s Day and I was met with the same blank response that assumed not much fan fair had been discussed around the subject. But, you won’t see dad sulking on the couch or screaming at the top of his lungs that no one appreciates him.  Instead, he’ll simply smile and be thankful for whatever morsel of kindness is bestowed his way. 

Don’t give dad the shaft this Father’s Day, find a few ways to make him feel at least, almost equally as special as mom (wink).  Here are several ideas, although last minute, to show him you really care.

Let Him Be King of His Castle.  Let dad be in charge of the remote and settle in on a program that he likes – for once! If he wants to wear his favorite ratty old college shirt with the holes, so be it!  Hand him the sports section of the Sunday paper so he can read it cover to cover wherever he pleases. 

Give Him Some Space. As much as dad loves hanging with the family, this might be the perfect occasion for mom to take the kids out for a few hours to allow him some “me” time to relax without feeling guilty.  

Get Outdoors.  If dad is an athlete, offer to throw around the ball outside.  If he loves hiking, find a trail that has a scenic view and plan a picnic at the top. If biking’s his thing, go for a ride along the beach and follow it up with lunch at one of his favorite haunts before heading home.

Present Him with a Gift He Will Truly Enjoy.  Don't get dad a last minute practical gift because he needs it, use this opportunity to present him with something fun and unexpected that he will truly enjoy. Perhaps a book of 10 movie passes if he is a movie buff or a set of Beat Box headphones for the music lover who loves to sing in the shower.

Make Him a Home-Cooked Meal. We all know that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  If he loves to BBQ, marinate his favorite meat for grilling and couple it with some tasty Cole slaw and beans as sides. If dad is newly vegan?  Channel Alicia Silverstone and whip up a tantalizing tofu or vegetarian recipe online that will punch with just as much flavor.

Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere from your loving wives and children!!  xoxo