When my son crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts earlier this year, the leaders of his new troop made their philosophy on summer camp quite clear: If your kid goes to camp that first summer, it greatly increases the chances that he’s going to stick with Scouting for the long term.
So I didn’t ask my son if he wanted to go to camp. I signed him up, and I signed myself up with him. Then I told him we were going to summer camp together. He protested. I told him it wasn’t up for discussion. He protested more. Then I told him we were going to summer camp.
Did everything go perfectly? No. Was it worth it in the end? Absolutely.
Here are five things we learned at our first summer at camp:
1. Whether your Scout thinks they can do it or not, they can definitely do it.
Home sickness at summer camp is real. Our group had multiple first-year campers wander into the adult area after dark asking to go home.
But once you get through that first night or two, it becomes much easier.
We found it helpful to soothe our kids to a point. Then we told them, “Go talk to your patrol leader.”
2. Your Scout doesn’t care about the weather as much as you do, which is a good thing.
We camped at the Andrew Jackson Council’s Hood Scout Reservation, just outside of Hazelhurst, Miss. It wasn’t the heat that bothered us; it was the humidity.
Ten minutes after you showered, you were sweating again, even at night, when the temperatures dropped into the low 70s. But the Scouts didn’t complain nearly as much as the adults did.
3. Your Scout doesn’t care about the weather as much as you do, which is a bad thing.
When we told our 11- and 12-year-old kids to drink water, we might as well have been telling them to walk on water.
I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to get kids to drink water, but hey, kids are gonna be kids.
They don’t always make the best decisions on their own. Scout camp is place for them to fail in an environment in which they’re supported and can learn from it.
So we told them over and over and over again: DRINK. YOUR. WATER. And eventually, they did.
4. It’s important to find the right amount of free time for your child.
My son enjoyed having merit badge, Tenderfoot and Second Class workshops throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. Then he enjoyed having a couple of hours to hang out with his buddies at the lake.
Other Scouts preferred to be booked with classes all day. (They all got free time on Friday.)
Summer camp is a great time to work on requirements and merit badges. It’s also a great time for your Scout to hang out with friends. Find the balance that’s right for your child.
5. It’s absolutely, positively worth it to take a week out of the summer for Scout camp.
It’s not always cheap, so start selling popcorn and Camp Cards early.
At the end of our week at camp, I told my son, “Well, I sure am looking forward getting home to the air-conditioning. It’s too hot here.”
My son — the same one who protested so mightily when I first told him we were going to summer camp — replied, “Yeah, but it was worth it.”
Aaron Derr is the Senior Writer for Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.
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