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Tag: parenting

Why Camp Might Unexpectedly Teach your Kids the Art of Letter Writing

I don’t remember writing letters to my parents when I was a nine year old at sleepaway camp in New Hampshire, though I’m sure I did. (That’s me sailing on the right.) Only now do I realize the impact my letters must have had on my parents. Here’s why.

Our twelve-year-old son is nearing the end of his first sleepaway camp experience. We think he’s had a great time, though our contact with him has been extremely limited. Yes, we’ve spotted him in some of the photos the camp has been posting on their website for parents.

And his eLetters (scanned physical letters that the camp uploads and emails to us) have painted an overall positive experience.

The first time away from home is a big deal for any kid. It can be hard. It certainly was for me when I was nine and went to sleepaway camp for the first time at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Of course, I got homesick. But I remember having a lot of fun too.

Now, as a parent, I’m obviously on the opposite side of this equation.

Letters from our Son
One unexpected pleasure has been reading his letters. It goes way beyond whether he’s simply happy. (Though that’s important!)

This is actually the first time he’s written physical letters to us. And we’ve really heard his voice about his day through his written words.

And knowing this has been his only conduit to my wife and me, I think he’s treated this analog experience with a previously unrealized sense of importance.

And I wonder if these unexpectedly detailed letters will contain more information and perspective than our early reunion conversations upon his return.

Communicating with a Tween
If you’re a parent of a tween, I think you know what I’m getting at. My questions to our son about his day sometimes receive a one-word response.

It’s entirely possible our first moments after we pick him up from camp will go like this…

I’m driving. He’s in the back seat…

“How was camp?”

“Good.”

“Did you have fun?”

“Kind of.”

“Did you make some friends?”

(pause)

“Uh huh.”

On the other hand, he could spend the entire three-hour car ride back telling us about his many adventures. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect.

I know we’ll hear his stories… eventually.

But we’ve already got his letters. And to me… they’re gold.

Discovering the Art of Letter Writing
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but he’s really picked up the art of letter writing. He’s a natural storyteller using the written word. I’ve seen many hints of this through his school work.

But reading my boy’s camp letters has dramatically refocused my point of view on the value of letter writing.

In today’s always-rushed, digital-first world, who’s got time to write a letter? Maybe an email or a quick text. If you’re feeling really ambitious, perhaps a short video message.

That’s all better than nothing. But a real letter that’s crafted from your bare hands… Whoa. How special is that?

Like Father, Like Son?
Across the past decade of writing this blog, I have sometimes been guilty of expressing myself through the written word without ever articulating the same stories with the same detail.

It would seem that on certain topics, I feel more comfortable writing out the stories than verbalizing them with the same clarity.

As I look back across my decade of weekly posts, I think this blog has more than occasionally served as my own letters written home (though of course, I’m communicating to a different audience).

As I expose this self-reflection, I realize my admission brings up a number of issues surrounding the psychology of blog writing (another topic for another day).

For now, I’ll simply draw a parallel between writing a blog and the art of letter writing from camp. The written word can reveal so much.

Tell Me a Story
Of the many growth opportunities a summer camp can offer a child, who knew that writing letters home could so strengthen the storytelling muscle?

Sure, not every camper’s letter will reveal the center of a child’s heart, but if you’re lucky, there will often be details that reveal true feelings.

I expect most parents don’t send their kid to sleepaway camp to learn how to write a good letter, but I’ve realized it’s an added bonus.

This all may be an obvious point, but it’s one that this parent has happily figured out.

Diary of a Dad who Sent his Kid to Sleepaway Camp

Our son is away from home for the very first time, and this is how I’ve been coping over the first few days.

My wife and I dropped our son off at sleepaway camp this week after a three hour drive. He’s twelve, and it’s his first time away from our family (beyond sleepovers with friends). This big step would have likely come earlier if not for the pandemic. But this is the summer. And he was ready for it. The big question is… were we?

No Parenting Responsibilities. Yay!
As I drove home, my wife and I used the time to plan a weekend getaway. We also discussed a variety of activities we could do as a couple during our parental pause. It all seemed positively invigorating.

Then, we got home and our new reality set in.

No Parenting Responsibilities. Boo!
It was so quiet. Everything seemed a bit off without him around the corner. We talked about how our son might be doing after his first day. Did he have everything he needed? Would he quickly make friends? How was he adjusting to his new environment?

We had no information. And that was the plan. This camp is a screen and cellphone-free zone. But in our age of immediate and constant flow of digital communication, it felt really strange that there’s effectively a dome of silence over our son.

But not entirely. There are visual breadcrumbs to follow…

Putting on the Digital Detective Dad Hat
The camp posts photos daily on their website where my wife had already created our parent account.

An industrious camp photographer is snapping away all day and then uploads hundreds of pics the next morning for parents to review. It’s effectively a visual data dump, and it takes some time to go through.

As I reviewed the first group of photos, I spotted our son on the dinner line. Then, there was another photo of our boy eating dinner.

Wait! Who was our son sitting next to? Was that the same boy who was on the dinner line with him in the previous photo? It was!

Okay… That’s good. Maybe that’s a new friend he just made. Hard to really know based on two photos.

The following day, I pulled up the new crop of photos and started searching for our little Lester. (He’s actually not so little anymore.)

No. No. No. Nothing.

Wait… there he is again! He’s walking somewhere. And…
…And he’s walking with that same boy.

I’d definitely say that’s a new friend.

After two days and three photos, I’ve derived the following:

  • Our son is not starving.
  • He’s made at least one new friend.
  • He seems happy enough.

I feel like a digital detective, putting together an entire storyline based on a few visual fragments. But it’s something. And these few clues definitely sooth my parental craving for information.

Do You have an Extra Stamp?
Of course, we’ve also supplied our boy with a stack of pre-stamped envelopes and stationary. The old-school practice of letter writing is still alive and well at summer camps.

But snail mail in 2022? Come on! There must be a faster way!

And there is.

Our camp uses an eLetter system where both parents and campers can effectively email each other. For the kids, it’s actually more of a scan-a-physical letter system where the camper first writes a letter with pen and paper. Then, the letter gets scanned and uploaded.

We received our first eLetter on day three, and it was a fairly lengthy report! He wrote that he missed us (as well as our cat). He was also enjoying himself and gave us some detail on his early experiences.

In short, our lad was doing just fine.

Time to Disconnect?
There’s a certain irony that though we’ve sent our boy to a summer experience that is technology free, I am now glued to the camp’s website each morning.

Perhaps I could also benefit from a few weeks away from glowing screens, keyboards and the constant drip of digital info. A total blackout and disconnection. A cleansing of sorts.

Wait, let me think about that for another moment…

ARE YOU KIDDING?!

It’s Not Party Time Yet
Our son is away from home for the very first time! I need that digital tether, thin as it may be. Every morsel of information is welcome.

I hear that parents who send their kids to summer camp over multiple years quickly move into a ‘party mode’ mentality during their kid-less weeks.

For me, maybe next week.

For now, I’ve got to review a few hundred camp photos to try to figure out what our son was up to yesterday. And then, I want to write another eLetter to him.

Thank goodness for technology.

Grogu’s Choice

When Baby Yoda shows up in the middle of “The Book of Boba Fett,” you know the writers have a few more tricks up their sleeves.

“The Book of Boba Fett” has become really interesting. That’s because it’s suddenly drawing heavily on a growing number of beloved characters from a galaxy far, far away.

First, Mando’s back in Chapter 5. And if you’re not paying close attention, you would think that you’re inexplicably watching season 3 of “The Mandalorian.” (Talk about crossover storylines.)

It’s been a real treat to see Din Djarin (played by Pedro Pascal) back in action. The producers don’t stop there. They give us a healthy dose of Grogu-ness too.

But the “Boba Fett” folks aren’t done yet. Oh no.

The Return of Luke Skywalker
Remember the big reveal at the end of “The Mandalorian” season 2? (spoiler alert)

A young Luke Skywalker shows up to save the day. Sure, his face is computer-generated. But he looks okay for a CGI human. Plus we’ve got the voice of the real Mark Hamill.

Many have debated whether digital-Luke was real enough, but that’s not really important if you’re focusing on the big picture.

It was an amazing reveal, and it was perfect for the story. Thank you, Jon Favreau.

But clearly, the writers weren’t done with CGI Luke. They wanted another shot and gathered all of the computer-rendering power this side of the solar system.

And with that force, they now gave us a full episode of “The Mandalorian” (I mean “The Book of Boba Fett”) largely led by young Luke Skywalker!

And it worked! How crazy is that??

The Luke scenes in Chapter 6 were amazingly real. In some of the action sequences, it felt like the Lucasfilm animators were really having fun with their achievement.

Our New Padawan
We also see Luke training Grogu. What a pair! I love that the episode takes its time with this. (That’s an advantage a series can offer.)

And then the big cliffhanger comes….
(Yes, spoiler alert)

Luke gives Grogu the choice of accepting one of two gifts… Yoda’s light saber or the little beskar-armored shirt the Madalorian dropped off. Of course Grogu’s choice will define his destiny.

Cut to black… roll credits.

Wow.

Much Strength this Series Reveals
The first few episodes of “The Book of Boba Fett” are slower by comparison. I think it’s partially because of so much time spent on the back story (which is arguably needed).

And Boba Fett’s character (played by Temuera Morrison) still feels a bit two dimensional. (It doesn’t help that he’s barely been in the past couple episodes.) But we’ll see how he evolves as his story pushes forward.

“The Book of Boba Fett” is getting stronger as it benefits from a growing and integrated Star Wars’ universe that draws from the best of the original core as well as crossover characters from “The Mandalorian.”

Beyond Mando, we’ve had the pleasure of reuniting with Jedi Ahsoka, sheriff Cobb Vanth, the Mandalorian Armorer and mechanic Peli Motto.

Streaming Joy
Sure, we can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of “The Book of Boba Fett.” That said, I am not disappointed. Not one bit.

As a life-long “Star Wars” fan who remembers being blown away when I saw Episode IV in in the movie theater and also as a father of an eleven-year-old son who enjoys “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” as much as I do, I am psyched that “Star Wars” is alive and well on Disney+.

Watching these episodes with my family has been a peak experience.

More please.

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