The Loss of the Independent Childhood

Last night my husband and I were discussing sending our daughter to girl scout camp. I am pro-camp. He is against it. He never went to camp as a child and doesn’t see why our kids need to go. So I lay in bed recalling my camp experience for him: the feeling of freedom, making new friends, archery, hiking, friendship bracelets, bug juice, the joy of making your own purchase at the canteen, swimming in the river, camp songs, camp fires… I could go on and on. I want my kids to have those experiences too!

But there is something else that is making me push for camp. When my husband and I were kids, we had full reign of our neighborhoods. Both of our parents set the boundaries as to how far we could travel on our own and then boom, out the door on bikes, roaming the neighborhood with a pack kids, running in and out of yards and houses. At each house there would be a parent ready with a popsicle, a sprinkler, or 5 minutes of air conditioning, but mostly we stayed outside. After school, weekends, and especially summer meant FREEDOM!

And when dusk came, children’s names would be called and we would all head indoors for dinner. Our parents barely saw us during the day and it was OKAY. There was no boogeyman lurking around every corner to snatch us up.

We don’t live in that time anymore, at least not around here. We live in a high anxiety world now; post Columbine, post 9/11, post meth. We no longer look at strangers as a potential friend but as potential crazies. I’ll admit, when I do let the kids play in the back yard I stand at the window, on the lookout for the boogeyman.

Kids are so heavily scheduled after school that there is no laughter filling the yards. Weekends too are scheduled with soccer games, recitals, and family activities. I’m starting to realize that summer is the same way. Every parent I speak to talks about how their summer calendars are filling up with family trips and supervised, organized day camps such as cooking camp, computer camp, youtube camp (seriously), and princess camp (again, seriously).

So, where are today’s kids going to gain any sense of independence or freedom? I’m thinking the only place left to experience that freedom that used to come with childhood may very well be camp.

Luckily, I found this article backing me up so maybe, just maybe, I’ll win this one!