By Jennifer Lowitt
I was a camp kid. I went to a lovely camp in upstate New York — some of my best childhood memories came from my time at sleep-away. When the oldest of my three kids (who is now approaching 16) came of age for camp, I of course met with my camp’s director. While I included my old camp in my search, I thought I ought to be fair, and I included several other camps in the mix. We sent away for videos and scheduled appointments with a few camp directors. As my oldest began watching the videos, my younger son (who was six at the time) joined him and they began reviewing camp videos together. One video stood out to both of them, a camp in Maine that looked gorgeous and had so many activities that it captivated both my sons – who have very different interests — at the same time. Both boys told me to set up a meeting with the director of that Maine camp. I did, and our family met with the director/owner. Immediately there was a rapport, and over a shared apple pie my sons declared that they had found their camp.
My oldest then went off to sleep-away that summer — not to my camp but to his camp — and at he has gone back each year. 2016 was his last year as a camper. While that milestone is bittersweet, he is planning on returning this year for a leadership program, in order to work at the camp as a counselor when he is older.
My younger son followed my oldest the year after, and is now going on his sixth summer at camp. While he started as a little kid, this year he will enter the teen camp, and experience camp at a new level, including the much anticipated teen trips he gets to take. My son plans on continuing as a teen camper, and then becoming a counselor. I believe he cannot imagine spending his summer somewhere else.
My youngest, a daughter, spent several years as the visiting sibling. She finally insisted upon going to camp with her brothers last year. While she started in a rookie session, in a matter of days she concluded she wanted to stay for a month, and had the best time. She is headed back this summer for seven weeks and cannot wait.
Despite originally envisioning Visiting Day at my old camp, my husband and I have loved our Visiting Days in Maine. We always head up a few days early to enjoy Portland, Freeport and Kennebunkport. We meet up with other friends whose kids are also at camp. And, after six years of Visiting Day where we had a child or two accompany us up, last year we experienced the “kidless” summer. While we missed them and were so excited for Visiting Day, we had a lovely few days in Maine just the two of us.
Camp has become an important part of our family’s lives, the way I hoped it would be, even if it isn’t in the place I originally envisioned. My kids truly view their camp in Maine as their second home with their summer family. They stay in touch with their camp friends and counselors throughout the year, both in person and virtually. They will not miss a reunion. As parents, we love that the kids have a great time, all while learning valuable (and screen-free!!) lessons. They come home more independent and self-assured, with stories galore. They have memories that they share together (and which usually involve a chant or cheer) that belong to the three of them.
My kids’ growth and experiences at camp are a result of the tireless effort of the camp’s owners/directors. They devote their lives to “their kids” and to the camp. Every year there are new and different events and activities, mixed in with the traditions and staples the kids love about camp. I always find their approach to any issue as reasonable and caring. We consider them the “summer parents” to our kids, and it was fitting that they were able to share our younger son’s recent bar mitzvah with us.
So, my kids did not end up at my camp. While at first I wanted to have them follow in my footsteps, I realize that the best gift I can give them is the ability to find their own place in the world. We still bond over universal camp experiences. But they have truly found their own summer home at their camp in Maine. What else could a former camp kid want for her kids?
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Camp Guide, Laurie to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.