Has there ever been a more pressure-filled time than now to be a child growing up in North America? I almost think not.
I was at the gym today, and was chit-chatting with another mom I hadn’t seen in a while. We caught up in our lives, and she asked me what my boys are doing this summer. I proceeded to tell her that my 5 year old son is going back to his day camp and hockey camp at the end of the summer. And that my older 8 year old son was going to sleepaway camp, up until last month, when we cancelled.
She then said to me, “You did the right thing, Erica. Besides, why are we in such a rush today to push our kids into everything?”
I told her about his adamant request to go to sleepaway camp this summer, at end of 3rd grade. Despite the fact that my husband and I felt he wasn’t emotionally ready, we didn’t deny his request. We visited the open house this winter, and he loved it. It was also the camp where his mommy and daddy met, and how cool that he’d be going there too! We asked him, “You’re ready, buddy?” He replied, “I love it. I’m so ready.” He begged us, and we happily complied. Our boy was growing up!
And, oh was he proud. When people asked him what he was doing this summer, he beamed. Sleepaway camp!
But in the end, it was all too much. He began to have recurring bad dreams and anxiety about camp. Perhaps we should have forbidden him to go in the first place, knowing he wasn’t ready this year. But that is not our way. We wanted to allow HIM to make his own decision, and spread his own wings. After another bad dream one night, I quietly asked him, “Are you sure you’re ready for sleepaway camp? It’s more than okay if you are not, sweetheart. It’s okay to sit this summer out. We will be proud of you and support your decision, either way.” I gave him a few weeks to think about it and decide.
And just a few weeks ago, he came up to me one day, “Mom, I am not ready for sleepaway camp.”
And just like that, he was a new person.
I breathed a sigh of relief, because I knew in my heart he really wasn’t ready. But the truth is, my husband and I would NOT have picked him up had he been homesick this summer. We wouldn’t. And the proof of that is right here. It’s not about tough love. It’s about the commitment. I was raised, that when you make a commitment, you see it through. And thankfully, my husband and I are a unified front when it comes to quitting.We both feel that when you make that commitment, you keep your word. It is character building and important. I knew in my heart that this summer would have been a total bust had he gone. But I didn’t put my foot down, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I let him lead the way. And in the end, I believe allowing him to make his own final decision was the best thing for him.
So, we’re sitting this summer out, and next year, he will be a full year older, more mature, and better prepared. We’ll reassess.
On a side note, read these. These were MY sleepaway camp letter when I was his age. Let’s pray to God he doesn’t follow in his mom’s footsteps.
If I send MANY WISHES, maybe THAT will work! Maybe they’ll come pick me up.
I cried 29 times, but PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO SEND GIFTS!
THEY AREN’T BRINGING ME HOME. I CAN SEE IT NOW. SO, LET’S SEND THE THREAT MAIL. NO “LOVE, ERICA” ANYMORE.
Then I ran away. No joke.
Ok, I know you’re dying from laughter now. Just imagine my mother. I was a frikkin’ nightmare.
But in all seriousness, what is with our society and the race to give our children everything, too quickly? My son is pretty much one of his only friends not going to sleepaway camp this summer. At 8 years old, he is just not ready to leave us for the summer. Why is this a bad thing?
And I’ll take it one step further. Why do we give our kids electronics at such a young age, often before they’re developmentally ready? I’m guilty. Why did I give in to basketball, swimming, hockey, and baseball, all for this spring season? Again, guilty. Why is sleepaway camp at 8 a must (as it is for many kids in my community)? Why do parents I know give their children extra summer reading to stay ahead of the game, instead of the summer off to relax and enjoy being a kid? Why are my son’s peers doing extra off-ice hockey training? Why are parents redshirting their kids at record numbers, for that competitive advantage? Why are anxiety and depression at record highs in children and teens due to the extreme pressures they feel trying to keep up with the curriculum, and social pressures? Why are kids smoking, doing drugs and having sex at younger ages than ever?
What is with the race to have everything and DO everything so soon? I ask you? I just feel like it’s a race to expose our kids, and push our kids to be smart, athletic and all-around great, at a very young age.
So today, I ask you, what do you make of this race to have it all? Am I completely off base? Have you been guilty of pushing your kids into something too soon? Is it all too much pressure? Should I have forced my son to go this summer? I’m often on the fence between ‘When is it pushing too hard, and when should you push in order to not raise a quitter? I would really love your take on all of this- are we pushing our kids too hard, too soon?