Our newspaper carried a column yesterday in which the writer lamented the fact that not only was her child going off to overnight camp, but that the daughter was actually excited about the prospect. The writer, you see, hated sleep-away camp as a child.
This column really hit home for me. I have long been convinced that the world can be divided into two kinds of people: camp lovers and non-camp lovers.
Disclaimer: I LOVE camping. On my own terms, with my own family. I’m talking about organized summer camps for kids.
Kids who love going to camp are outgoing, energetic, brave, ready to try anything. They know all the latest pop songs, all the coolest phrases. They’re great at sports, never get bug bites, and are impervious to poison ivy. They’re the popular kids, the kids who seem to possess all the confidence in the world, the kids who adults label as “leaders” because they stand out, jumping up and down, begging to be picked. They are ready at the drop of a hat to tell all the other kids what to do. (Yes, this is my very biased assessment. Forgive me.)
And then there are the kids for whom camp feels like a death sentence. The kids who feel swallowed up in a crowd – but that’s okay because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. The kids who need time alone to read, to think, to ponder. The kids who are most happy with one good friend at their side to talk about big concepts. The kids who think things through, who lead quietly by example, who don’t feel compelled to do what the rest of the crowd is doing.
Big surprise, I was one of the “non-camp” kids. The very thought of a week or more forced to be with 100 of my peers at all times made me sick to my stomach.
None of our three kids were “camp kids,” either. The oldest would have gone if we’d pushed her – she can handle pretty much anything. But she would have felt like an outcast the whole time. Middle Sister would have passed out at the first glimpse of a pack of kids her age, all of whom she would be sure were set to create a “Lord of the Flies” reenactment (and she would have been mentally critiquing the literary merits of “Lord of the Flies” as she had this thought). The Boy would have known how to fit right in, but he would have been disgusted by the idiocy of pop culture that permeates almost all groups of kids his age.
Truly, I think the world needs both “camp lovers” and “non-camp-lovers.” I just wish the camp lovers would leave the rest of us alone. We’re not defective because we don’t enjoy herd mentality.
We just want to be left to our own thoughts, to stare at the stars from the peace and quiet of our own tent. And once we’ve been given the space to do that, we will emerge and make our contribution to the world in our own unique way.