By Kiara Harlow
So it happened! A motherhood dream came true! I took my kids to old school camp, and it was FABULOUS! We decided on the End of Summer Family Camp at YMCA Camp Greenville with our neighbors. It’s an easy two hour drive from Charlotte (to Greenville, S.C.) and feels a world away! What made it so great, you ask?
1. It’s a true electronics getaway.
There is nothing luxurious about family camp (although we did upgrade to the largest, air conditioned cabin) but as soon as you turn off the main road at the base of the mountain, there is no cell service. And the only wifi is within 30 feet of the camp store. So if family time “away from it all” is what the doctor ordered, then family camp might be for you!
It’s not as rough as camping nor as luxurious as glamping, but it conjured all the 2000s summer sleepaway camp vibes. It was really sweet to spend unadulterated time with my kids — no neon glow on their faces from iPads, no arguing over what to watch on TV, no asking Alexa 10,000 silly questions a day. And it was nice to have nights with my husband that didn’t include sending memes back and forth.
2. It’s old school fun.
My 3-year-old swam in a lake for the first time. The boys tried their hand at archery, shot BB guns, went canoeing, and traversed high ropes courses. They spent their evenings bouncing on “The Blob,” riding bikes by flashlight, and roasting s’mores over a roaring bonfire. We played cards and charades until our eyelids were too heavy to hold open, then laid down on our bunks in our sleeping bags.
3. It gave our city kids a chance to experience more independence.
A negative byproduct of raising kids in the city is that there are lots of safety pitfalls close at hand. So my style is forced to be very much motherhood smotherhood. (Those of you who’ve met me know I push it to the absolute limit, but still!) Camp allowed them the freedom to roam and wander.
I grew up in rural South Carolina, and wandering with my friends was one of my favorite things to do as a kid. At camp, they could ride their bikes from our cabin to the mess hall, through thickets and along hilly trails. We allowed them to keep track of the time and meet us at the next activity point, requiring them to read signs and orient themselves. Don’t worry —we kept an eye on them (one adult in our two-family group always signed up to discreetly monitor our gaggle of kids, ages 3-11.) They loved the independence and the opportunity to show us how capable they are. And we loved learning that they haven’t lost their sense of wonder in the natural world.
We all left camp feeling happy, exhausted, and even closer to one another than we came. And isn’t that the purpose of any family vacation with little kids? I’ve given up on feeling “rejuvenated,” but making memories and strengthening the bonds with my kids, husband, and friends, is top notch.