|Belgian fields and Belgian skies
Last summer Sidney attended a wonderful day camp on the coast of Maine. He paddled in the tidal pools of Penobscot Bay, played games I remember playing as a child and made a whole new bunch of American friends. Hesitant at first, he quickly came to love everything about this all American camp and was sad when it ended. So this summer I wanted to find a similar experience for him here in Belgium.
Growing up in a rural area some of my fondest childhood memories were just going outside and playing. This was back in the days before helicopter parenting, overly programmed schedules and the incessant need to have every activity be aligned with the standards of learning. It was a time of free range parenting before the term became a stigmatized phrase. Summers were all about playing in the fresh air, letting out imaginations guide our activities and simply being children. Our backyard was spacious and emptied into a deep woods filled with trees, paths and unlimited opportunities for exploring. Despite our best efforts, I realize how foreign this whole concept in Sidney's world. A large part of that is the result of his immediate surroundings. In Albania out house sat behind a high, barb wire topped concrete wall and lacked any green space. In fact, safe green space was virtually non-existant in our neighborhood. Here in Belgium our front steps empty onto the street and while we have a small walled back garden (or yard), it is just that, small. There is a patio, a patch of grass and ivy and rose covered walls. It is lovely but not exciting to a five year old who has already lost too many balls over the wall. Neighborhood playgrounds provide some opportunities for running and playing as do after school sports, but all of these activities are so clean, orderly and structured.
|Getting to camp is scenic
By pure chance it was only a couple of weeks later that I heard about a day camp here in Belgium that sounded intriguing. Located in the Belgian countryside the small camp offered children the opportunity to be children. Campers would play in the woods and fields, learn about baby animals on the adjacent farm and generally spend their days playing. And as a bonus, while the camp leader and a few of the counselors spoke English, most of the day was spent speaking French. It sounded like just what we were looking for. Sidney and I visited one afternoon, both fell in love with what we saw and quickly signed up for a few one week sessions.
|The happy camper set for another
rainy and mud filled day
I do wish the camp was located a bit closer to us as I am spending two hours a day driving him back and forth but I am discovering Belgian villages and countryside that I never knew existed. The rain only seems to be a damper for me since it isn't bothering Sidney one bit. I cringe a bit that we are spending money for him to experience the being a kid that we took for granted outside of our backdoors as children, but times have changed. What hasn't changed, however, is the need for kids to be kids, for them to use their imaginations in their play and to explore to their heart's content. It all makes for an amazing day. And that is simply priceless.