Family life

My six-year-old grows up

Tracy's noticed a calm settle over her very spirited daughter this summer. Is camp the cause?

By Tracy Chappell
My six-year-old grows up

Anna feeding a chipmunk at my parents' trailer this summer.

There’s a young lady living at my house. She looks like Anna. She sounds like Anna. She sleeps in Anna’s bed. But somehow, she’s not quite the same Anna who graduated from Senior Kindergarten back in June in her pretty polka-dot dress and proud smile.
Something’s happened to Anna this summer. Maybe it would have happened anyway at six-and-a-half — I don’t know because I’ve never done this before — but I noticed a growing independence and maturity emerging as July melted into August. She seems a bit calmer and happier, less volatile. More affectionate. She waits more patiently (more often). She's quicker to do as she's asked. She'll even pose for pictures. I’ve watched Anna and Avery play together more peacefully in the past two months than in the years that preceded them
So what has changed? I was a little concerned about how the lack of the usual school/daycare routine would affect Anna’s behaviour this summer, since she seems to thrive on a predictable routine. But she’s taken it all in stride: A few days at one grandma’s house and then another’s, a week at the cottage and all those different camps. So many new experiences. I mentioned before how proud I was of how she embraced them and truly enjoyed them. Anna’s never been shy, but it’s still a lot to expect of a child, isn’t it? Honestly, if I imagine myself at six years old, being dropped off to spend the entire day with a teenaged camp counsellor and group of kids I’d never met before, I would have been very nervous and uncomfortable (I never did camp as a kid).
Maybe this summer, we’ve all been more relaxed at home, and that’s helped her feel more relaxed? It could be. Summer is just an easier time to parent all around, I think. But I do think camp has had a lot to do with Anna’s evolution. There, she had to learn to look after herself in a way she never has before. She had to be responsible for her things and her behaviour, make good decisions and get along with others, participate and be respectful. She did all that on her own, and maybe all that harmony felt good to her and came home with her, along with a newfound confidence in her abilities. All I know is that I've never seen such a change in her overall disposition like I have this summer.
And I’ve been enjoying her tremendously — and so have her grandparents and her camp counsellors, and that’s a great thing to hear. Better yet, I know Anna’s had a summer full of happy, positive experiences.
She is eagerly anticipating Grade One. It’s hard to believe that, this time next week, she’ll be almost finished her first week as a first-grader. Will she flip back to her old ways or is this a new Anna emerging? Only time will tell.
Have you found that your child has changed or matured over the summer months?

This article was originally published on Aug 30, 2012

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