As the summer progresses, my blogs occasionally get a tad more personal and reflective.
When we are in the middle of the summer, the camp season feels like it will go on forever. But with just half a week left, I become a little nostalgic. The scarcity of our remaining camp days makes them more precious.
But I also stop and think about the changes in our own lives.
When we bought Camp Champions in November of 1995, we were childless. But Susie Ma’am became pregnant the following spring, so our first summer here found her carrying twins. We added two more over the following four years. Yes, we had 4 children under the age of 5. I remember those years as hectic. Susie Ma’am is not sure she remembers those years at all.
For us, Camp Champions and our family are inexorably intertwined. The kids learned to ride bikes on the pickleball courts. We had camp-themed birthday parties. They were babies at camp, toddlers at camp and soon campers at camp.
Before we knew it, they were Senior Campers (in our high school leadership program). Then they were counselors.
To be honest with you, all of this snuck up on us. We were intellectually aware of the fact that our children were growing, but emotionally I sorta assumed they would always be here.
This May, our youngest graduated from high school. She is now a counselor. Two of our oldest are not here for the first summer ever – forced by academic requirements to be elsewhere.
So we are on the verge of being empty-nesters. We are no longer “parents like you” and more like “salty veterans who have survived”. Since our youngest will be taking a gap year, we will see her a little more than a typical college freshman (at least until she goes to Spain for 6 months), but we are effectively done as parents.
As long as we are now here, let me share some thoughts.
- You will never regret time spent traveling with your children.
- When you travel, embrace adventure more than luxury. They will remember rafting and hiking more than shopping and swimming in the pool.
- Embrace experiences separate from you that stretch them. In addition to attending at least 2 camps each summer, each of our kiddos travelled alone before attending college. Did these experiences make us a little nervous? Certainly. But we knew that they were building resilience muscles that would prepare them to shine when they go off to the “real world” of college and adulthood.
- If your teenager ever initiates a conversation with you (that does not involve asking for money or car keys), stop what you are doing and savor it. Whatever else you are doing can wait. An engaged teen is a rare gift.
- Your children are more capable than you think they are.
- Let them do their own homework – you already have a diploma.
- Make a list of things you want to do when you become an empty-nester. You will miss them, but you will appreciate the freedom. The next chapter will be great too.
- Start a strong tradition of annual family get-togethers that is immutable. At some point, a loving college son/daughter will attempt to go elsewhere for a vacation. That should be a “no”. Family time remains priority time.
- It is not your imagination. The house does smell better when the sons are gone.
OK, I got that off my chest. Time to go spend some time with our campers!