Camp Woodland Blog

A Priceless Gift To Give My Daughter

It happened again. You know the look. You know the comments. And this time it was from another mom who I respect, has a great attitude, and is raising wonderful children. My daughter, Maya, and I were talking with a friend and her daughter about Maya’s summer camp experience at Woodland.

Maya: “…And next summer I want to go back for six weeks.”

Other mom gasps loudly: “I would never let you go for that long, Sweetie!” (hugging her daughter tightly)

Other mom’s daughter: “I would never want to go for that long, Mom.” (hugging back and smiling)


Okay, I know the drill. I went to Woodland for eight weeks when I was nine. I went for ten summers after that for eight weeks. There was never a two week or four week session when I attended. There was a reason for the long session. The same magic in terms of growth, confidence, and perseverance just can’t happen in two weeks. I remember Anne Jordan explaining it to me when I was a counselor during pre-camp. The same way she explained to me when I was a camper that if she let me call my mom during camp not only would I not feel better, I would feel worse. She was right on both accounts.


Now, as a mother who has experienced the loss of a child, I don’t think I would have sent my daughter if Woodland did not have a two week session. I am grateful for the shortened option because now both Maya and I will be better prepared for the separation next summer.

So, what to do about these parents who would “never” let their daughters go to camp for so long? The ones who tell me they love their daughters too much to let them go. Do they understand they are implying I do not love my child? Some seem to think we are somehow damaging our children by sending them away from us for several weeks.


I know the best response to this is to dismiss it and not care what anyone else thinks. Most of the time I can remember what camp did for me, and let go. Every once in a while, though, I start to question my choice. I am “losing” all this time I could have with my daughter. How can I send her away and let other people take care of her for so long? Will she be okay? Will she get hurt? Will she feel alone when I am not there for her?

All these questions bring me back to three things: my own practical life experience at camp, inner strength, and faith.

Silver Birch Maya

I know the gifts camp gave me: confidence in myself in areas other than sports, meaningful and deep lifetime friendships, LOTS of time in nature, and exposure to activities I would not have had at home. Why wouldn’t I want to give this to my daughter?

Knowing how it enriched my life, how could I not let her go? When I am clear about this, I know it truly is a priceless gift to give my daughter. But our society and culture seem so different now than when I was a child. The parenting is different, the activity level is different, and what our children are exposed to is different. It seems to me that it takes more than the knowledge that extended overnight camp is a valuable experience in order to take the plunge. It takes inner strength and faith.


It takes the strength to dismiss the other parents’ reactions – respecting what they need to do in their own families -while calling upon the gifts I received from attending camp. It takes the faith that my daughter will be taken care of well. It will be different from how she is taken care of at home, and this is okay, even good. She will have camp sisters to help her through the hard times. It takes faith (still working on this one) to know if I don’t get a call home from JoAnne, everything is fine. It might not be perfect, but it is fine.


Let’s face it: Six weeks can be a long time to be separated from our children. I am relatively certain Maya did better in the two weeks we were away from each other than I did. Seeing her again, and having her home again is wonderful. Even in the short time of two weeks I noticed subtle changes; growth that I’m pretty sure would not have occurred for her if she was at home attending a day camp.

If you’re reading this, you already understand the gift of extended overnight camp for your daughter. But for anyone who still has insecurity or doubts when other parents’ comments come your way, just know you are not alone. We are in this together. And that is just one more gift Camp Woodland gives us all.

by Susan Austin Short, Woodland Alum and Parent

Maya and Regina