The eldest of my three kids turned thirty this month! Passing such a milestone causes you to reflect on many things about parenthood. One realization was how much summer camps and activities shaped their choice of careers as young adults.
I am shaking my head in the disbelief that my son has turned thirty. Thirty is such a big milestone in most people’s lives. It is now the average marrying age for example. However, for me, thirty meant that I had been married for several years with three children.
Maureen and I were married in 1981 and immediately had children. We made the decision to be a single income family so that Maureen could personally care for Jonathan, Alaina and Keenan. We never had much money and needed to be careful about enrolling our kids in any activity.
Each summer, we decided on summer camps and activities for them. Economics certainly played a factor in which things we could consider. Distance from our home was another and so was the interest our kids showed. We also strongly felt that they did not need to be in back-to-back activities all summer long. They needed time to play – to just be kids.
Over the years we examined and tried all sorts of summer camps and activities. I am a scientist and exposed the kids to things technical and scientific. But they never got excited enough for us to consider science camps.
We tried soccer for a while. Jonathan, the eldest, was very fond of watching his shadow as he ran across the field. If the ball came his way, he panicked seeing all the players coming his way. He quickly got rid of it as fast as he could. Once we had Alaina enrolled as well, the logistics of ferrying two kids across the city to two different games or practices at the same time were overwhelming. None of the kids really showed real aptitude for sports, so we decided to not pursue those further.
We hit pay dirt when we enrolled them into the Arts & Crafts camps offered by the City of Guelph and Musical Theatre camps from a local piano teacher. They met all our criteria. Those camps unleashed their creative selves. They were so keen on them that we found them continuing those activities once they got home.
They also loved a local overnight farm camp. They would leave on Monday and return Friday. They did chores in the morning, picked eggs from under the chickens, tended the gardens and the pigs, cows and goat. They learned where their food came from. In the afternoon, they rode horses and played in a pool. What fun it was to sleep in a covered wagon overnight!
In between those camps, they had home time. They would help mum with making cookies, bread, or muffins. They also weeded the garden and ate freshly picked sun-warmed tomatoes as a treat.
When we found camps and activities that the kids loved, we gained insight as to what made them tick. We continued to encourage them in these interests. Their interests developed into passion filled careers.
Today they are all grown up and live in Toronto. Jonathan is a sous-chef at Pure Spirits and Oyster House. He emphasizes fresh sustainable food. Alaina finished a Bachelor of Music and is now the Vocal Performance Production Manager at the Glenn Gould School of Music. Keenan completed Sheridan College’s Musical Theatre Performance Program and is a working triple threat (actor, dancer, singer).
Kids don’t come with user manuals. As parents, we can keenly observe what turns them on and encourage them. Summer camps and activities are great ways to expose them all sorts of interests. Those interests can be shaped into meaningful careers and lives.