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A View from the Woods.

Late this summer, I found myself sitting at a camp with a number of camp directors who were sharing stories about this year's summer season. A number of those stories included trials and tribulations with camper parents. As I listened, I realized I was one of those parents.

I am a parental product that has been raised on the traumas of today's culture. I can hardly remember a time when we weren't being warned about the predator waiting around every corner. Since the villain does not come clearly marked, everyone is considered the bad guy until proven otherwise. As a parent, I have been told repeatedly not to leave my children with strangers and to recognize the greatest threat to my children will most likely come from someone I know and trust. Who does that leave? Added to these messages are the sensational media stories that we are bombarded with nearly every day.

Now, if I weren't nervous enough, you have to add the fact that the camp experience is not a strong tradition in my immediate family. Although relatives on my father's side of the family were long-time Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, my mother felt the idea of camp was counterintuitive to what she understood as the parent's role. On top of this, you must add the guilt that comes with the reality of being a single parent. We never have enough time to be with the children. How can we ship them off to be with strangers?

I am the camper parent that can frustrate the camp director with such fears and hesitation. What is really amazing about all of this, however, is that I am not alone. There are many parents just like me. These parents and I are not crazy; we are products of today's environment. Many of us do appreciate, intellectually, the opportunities the camp experience can offer our children. We desperately want our children to have the chance to experience independence, learning by doing, friendship, and a new realized self-identity. Yet to do so, we need our fears to be taken seriously and accommodated in some fashion.

It occurs to me that technology may be just the bridge we can travel to bring our children to camp. I don't mean to offer every child an electronic umbilical cord to home, but perhaps to give the parent an umbilical cord to camp. I am not suggesting the technology permit the parent to infringe upon the beauty of camp independence, but that it give the parent a means to feel connected. Shouldn't we explore the ways we might use technology to give parents comfort so they might build a new family tradition? It is a strange concept to think technology may provide a solution for the camp experience, resulting in more and more children attending camp.

Peg L. Smith

ACA Executive Director
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Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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