Getting Back to the Basics
From snow days to snow cones, it’s hard to believe that summer is almost here! Although each of us is coming off of a different school year experience, it appears that the one constant has been how we all spent our days and nights driving our over-programmed children from place to place. As we prepare ourselves and our children for new summer routines, how can we change our focus from being stressed and overwhelmed toward establishing a more relaxed and present mindset?
It wasn’t so long ago (well maybe longer than we’d like to admit) when we were spending our summer days running through sprinklers and playing endless games of Kick the Can. Our nights were spent waiting for the ice cream truck, riding our bikes outside until the sun went down, catching fireflies, and only coming inside when our parents finally insisted. Those memories have since faded into the distance, and we are now in the midst of filling out camp paperwork, making sure our children have enough swimsuits and labeled clothes to wear, and anticipating how we are going to manage packing our campers lunches each day. We are older, and our priorities and worries have changed.
We wanted to learn more about what our parent community and campers were thinking and feeling as they head into summer, so we asked them, and the message we walked away with was a real eye-opener. Parents are focused on bigger picture, global themes. They want their children to make friends, gain independence, and become responsible human beings. A parent shared, “I love the friendships the kids have made over the years and it’s fun for them to hang out again with their camp friends! I love that they are involved in mainly outdoor activities all day long and are away from electronics!!!!” The children, however, can’t wait to swim in the pool, go on field trips, get a popsicle at the end of each day, and eat hotdogs at our Friday cookouts. Imagine that. Parents are setting these lofty goals, while children are focused on simple moments and experiences.
Children let go of typical stressors at camp and have opportunities to focus on what they enjoy most, while making their own choices in a fun and safe environment. One of the children we surveyed said that over the summer they look forward to, “Going to the pool and playing with my family. We get to be outside and that makes me happy!” As we head into summer, we encourage camp parents to follow the lead of their children and try to let go a bit as well. Rather than stressing about your long daily to-do lists, we suggest shifting your focus to creating memories and being present in the moment with your children. After all, that is what they will ultimately remember. Capture your child’s popsicle stained big smiles, take time to decompress by breathing in the fresh air, and enjoy being outside well into the evening hours.
Remember that Summer 2018 will be a distant memory before we know it, so let’s truly live in the moment and enjoy this snapshot in time before we are bundling up and braving those chilly days ahead.
Rachel Schwartz, LSW
Director of Social Services, JCC Chicago
Director, Elaine Frank Apachi Day Camp