On giving summer camp the good, ol’ college try

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Kids that go to camp have transformative experiences. Not only do they learn valuable physical or mental skills but also they interact socially on a diverse level that exceeds what they’re able to do at home with siblings or parents. I would even go so far as to say that certain developmental milestones are reached faster or at least at a richer rate through their involvement in camp, outside of a parent’s reach.

My older boys, ages 6 and 5 years old, participated in soccer camp over the summer. They were broken up into different groups based on their ages. The separation of my attached-to-the-hips kids was key. They both had the comfort of knowing that they would be near each other, learning about the same sport, but what was brilliant about the division was that they were interacting with new kids that brought their own distinctive personalities and skill sets to the table. When siblings are in a class together, they tend to stick together, limiting the chance for social progress with new friendships.

My 5-year-old, Sage, tends to shy away from sports in light of his older brothers athletic prowess. Last year, both boys took a T-ball class together, and Sage spent a lot of time sitting in the grass in the outfield playing with his mitt while his brother cracked balls down center field and ran around the bases.

Sage actually scoffed at the idea of soccer camp this summer, because he felt that he wasn’t any good at it, which broke my heart. No matter how much encouragement I gave him, no matter how much time we spent in the back yard kicking balls around, Sage simply lost his motivation to do well. Drive, as I’ve learned as a parent, can’t be forced. We can only simply provide the opportunities to get our children excited about sports (or any other extracurricular activity) but in the end, they are the ones that decide how much enjoyment they will get out of the experience. I didn’t care that he didn’t want to do sports, I cared that he thought he couldn’t.

So, off to soccer camp we went. And you know what happened? Sage loved it! He met friends that he chummed around with at the start of each class, he gained confidence in his capabilities and he was excited to share stories with his older brother. I feel like my son gained a certain amount of character-building self-respect through summer camp; he had fun, learned something new and he stepped outside of his comfort zone a little bit. Just as when we tell our kids, “I don’t care if you eat it, just try it and then decide if you like it;” summer sports camp for Sage was the same. He discovered something that I couldn’t directly teach him-he had to learn it all by himself.

Visit specialsections.suntimes.com/lifestyle/parenting to check out more columns from the Wendy City Mom.