I remember the feeling so clearly—the need to stop and take a deep breath in the face of constant demands from my young daughter, Mia, whether it was for snacks, help unbuckling her seatbelt or to play a game with her now. Not in five minutes, but now. In that millisecond I would pray for patience for myself but also wondered when my daughter would start to truly learn patience.
The thing is that my husband, David, and I were older parents, so from the beginning our daughter was a significant, if very welcome, disruption in our ingrained routines. Sure, we developed some new habits involving less sleep and fewer showers, but in many ways she had to adjust to our rhythms and desires.
Mia learned about the magical powers of Daddy’s morning coffee and Mommy’s decaf mochas and not to get in the way of either. She learned there was no eating or children’s music in Daddy’s car and no open backseat windows in Mommy’s, even if she asked a hundred times. We hoped we prepared her to get along in the world, to live with others’ needs, along with her own, and to understand that she was not the center of the universe.
In a few weeks, we’ll be getting her ready to go to Jewish overnight camp for the second time. We know from last summer that the camp experience taught her tolerance, kindness, independence and patience. How did camp help her learn these values? Mia, two Bens, Jake, Jonathan and Julia, all campers from ages 9 to 18, told me in their own words.
Julia Habbe, 18, a camper for three years at Camp Young Judaea, explained the way being part of a bunk helped her learn more about patience: “When you’re living in a room with a group of people, patience is pretty much required all the time! Especially with the little things, like forgetting to put away shoes, getting up to pee five times in the middle of the night, or snorting with every laugh.”
Our Mia, 9, a second-year camper at Camp Ramah in New England, added: “Waiting for someone else to be done in the shower takes patience, but you’ll get in at some point.”
Ben Delagi, 10, a third-year camper at Camp Bauercrest, found being confined to the bunk more of a challenge than he expected: “Rest time requires patience because if it’s beautiful outside, you have to wait. You can’t go outside no matter what!”
Ben Friedman, 16, a fifth-year camper and counselor-in-training at Camp Tevya, described how being a mentor in his “big brother” role taught him about patience: “We help our ‘little brothers’ out with changing sheets and getting their laundry. I had to explain some things to mine multiple times, and the tasks were not completed as quickly as I would have liked, so I missed some of my free time.”
Jake Goloboy, 16, a camper at Camp Bauercrest, agrees with Ben Friedman: “It takes patience to work with the younger kids at camp.”
Jonathan Dickerman, 15, a fifth-year camper at Camp Tel Noar, says: “Waiting tables at mealtime is fun a lot of times, but the littler kids can be a bit indecisive and there’s always the one unruly table.”
Ultimately, why does being patient at camp matter?
“Because camp is one of the best things in my life,” Jonathan says. “You need patience to get along with others and to become friends. I made a lot of friends at Camp Tel Noar, and camp friends like Olivia, Beth, Ben and Eric are special. You connect with them in a different way, more like your summer family.”
Seeing my daughter bond like that with her “summer family” gives me immense joy. As her family for the other three seasons, I only hope she’ll have some of that same patience with her parents too!
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Claire Winthrop is a consultant with CJP Camping Initiatives. She’s the wife of a former Camp Young Judaea camper and the mother of a Camp Ramah camper. Claire and her family live in Sharon with their cat, Drummer.
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