We used to call England our ‘Mother Country,’ until that fateful summer day 239 years ago when America declared its independence. Without going into our 4th grade American history lesson, I’d like to delve into the concept of independence - why was it so crucial for the future and development of our nation, and what does it mean for us as camp families today?
Aside from the obvious association to July 4th, independence is exceedingly relevant to all of us in the camp world. One of the unique benefits of the camp experience is the opportunity for a camper to build an identity away from that of their family or hometown. Each summer that child or young adult attends camp, they will be faced with the questions, ‘Who am I as an individual and what do I stand for? What kind of people do I want to make friends with? What is my role in this greater community?’ In fact, these questions are not too far off from what our founding fathers had to ask themselves over two hundred years ago. With their newfound separation from the ‘Mother Country’, America built their independence on the foundation of a new identity.
As parents, it is easy to feel like we can give everything to our children. However, according to psychologist and camp specialist Michael Thompson Ph.D., there are many things we simply cannot give our children directly. In an interview with CNN, he offers that along with happiness and self-confidence, “You can’t give a child independence - by definition. Because independence means being away from your parents. You can never have independence with a parent looking over your shoulder. Your parent has to open the door and let you walk out and find independence, experience it, and become comfortable with it - that’s camp.” It’s important to remember that giving your child time away from home doesn’t mean they love you any less! After all, America and England had a powerhouse alliance for hundreds of years to come!
Let’s take one more look back to our founding days. It would not have been the same if England just gave us our independence - we had to earn it! While, it’s scary, vulnerable, and at times very confusing to be on one’s own, you’ll be amazed at how your campers truly step up the plate and begin to own their independence. Luckily, on our end of the analogy, our journey towards independence requires no written declaration (well, except for all those camp forms), and no war (I mean...except for the battle with the zipper on your camper’s duffle bag). So this holiday weekend, take a moment and be proud that you and your camper are living out the true meaning of being an American! Happy Independence Day!