I just watched Meatballs — yes, the goofy camp movie with Bill Murray. A classic for sure. But the message was right on. Rudy, the little guy who arrives at camp and clearly does not fit in spends the first day or so as an outcast and runs away from camp. Bill Murray tracks him down at the local diner, and over a milk shake and french fries, convinces him to come back to camp. Over the course of the summer, due to“no parental intervention”, Rudy begins to develop competence, confidence and independence.
Through a friendship with Bill, he begins to practice running. He develops an ability and strength the other kids don’t have. He feels better about himself because although he can’t kick a soccer ball, he can run. He is selected to save the camp’s last chance in the Apache Relay against arch-rival Camp Mohawk. And the movie ends with Rudy on the shoulders of the whole camp.
He has gone from outcast to hero and in this simple (and often times silly story), you witness the beauty and magic of camp!
But it takes time for the process to unfold. Many would think that if your child is shy or timid or you are nervous about or for them, a short experience at camp would be best. It is actually the reverse. If these characteristics describe your child, you need to give them the time to work through the fear, build the competence and confidence, and leave camp with a success.
Success is defined by accomplishing ANYTHING…. the perfect piece of pottery (in their eyes), the new skill of the balance beam, a hook shot, or getting up on waterskis. It doesn’t happen over night, but it will happen, given the chance.
Don’t fear their time away. Embrace it, find thngs to do on your own, and smother your child with hugs and kisses when they proudly return from sleepaway camp.
Important Caveat: It is absolutely crucial to find the right camp. Meatballs is a movie. If your child is a bit shy, fearful, older or whatever it may be, it is critical to speak with a camp expert that knows the culture, personnel, size, etc. at different camps.