Last week I shipped my two daughters off to two separate summer camps. My 13-year-old went to a science/math camp --'Camp Awe+Sum' (get it?) at Westminster University and my 11-year-old went to Shadow Mountain -- a camp run by the school district and located somewhere high up in the mountains.
Camp Awe+Sum had private bedrooms and an indoor pool.
Shadow Mountain had bunkbeds in cabins and a freezing glacial lake at the top of a three-mile hike.
Camp Awe+Sum had a cafeteria.
Shadow Mountain had campfire food and a kitchen that was, I shit you not, invaded by a bear.
Camp Awe+Sum was "just okay" according to my daughter. I guess that she spent the four days mostly all by herself. She ate by herself at every meal in the campus cafeteria. A parent's worst nightmare. I felt slightly mollified when I found out that she sat alone at a booth with a book propped in one hand while she picked at her food.
Shadow Mountain was crowded with girls who already knew each other. Whereas I am absolutely positive that sweet and awesome girls were left out (dammit!), my daughter was not. She felt included and enjoyed the company of her friends and cabin-mates.
When I picked up my 13-year-old from Camp Awe+Sum I found her sitting alone under a tree, ready to go home.
When I picked up my 11-year-old from Shadow Mountain she was sunburned, reeked of campfire, and was grinning like a looney.
The stories I got from Camp Awe+Sum were mostly about how my daughter hated the food and the craft activities.
The stories I got from Shadow Mountain were beyond hilarious. My daughter had about five excellent campfire stories that she believed with all her heart to be true. My favorite one was from a camp counselor who told the kids that he lived for four months on an island inhabited by cannibals who put him in a cage and forced him to play an instrument. "What instrument?" we asked my daughter. She looked at us and gravely answered, "a ukulele."