07/24/2013 11:10 am ET Updated Sep 23, 2013

A Boy's Summer of Self-Discovery

My boys came home from a month-long summer camp on Monday. They were totally energized, rejuvenated and refreshed, even though they had not slept for more than 30 hours. Staying up the entire final night with their bunkmates is a camp tradition. After all, they won't see each other again until next year, assuming they go back again.

Upon their return, I had a conversation with one of my sons about what he took away from the experience.

Me: How was the camp? Did you have a good time?

Son: Amazing. I made so many great friends! My counselors were the best. Mom, do you know why I loved the camp so much?

Me: Why? Enlighten me.

Son: I became a better person.

Me (surprised): Really? A better person?! How?

Son (pausing first for a moment): I turned in my phone, so there was no texting or electronic games. Without the phone and the Internet, I played a lot of outdoor sports with my friends. I also had time to think.

Me: So, what did you think about?

Son: I thought about the past, the present and the future. I thought about how I treat others and you, the stuff I could have done better... I think I have a better grasp of what's morally right and wrong. I felt like I grew up both physically and mentally.

I also realized how incredibly lucky I am that you let me to come to this summer camp. Oh, my counselor was not only super cool, but ultra smart. He attends USC on an academic scholarship. I was thinking about college...

Me: Wow, some deep thoughts.

Son (excited): Oh, the food is delicious. I have been eating a lot of vegetables. Mom, you would be proud. (Note: this child of mine is usually 100-percent carnivorous.)

Me: Wow, not only a better person, but also a better eater. Are you sure that you are my son? Did an alien abduct you? Never mind alien abduction, I should send you back again.

Son (hopeful): Can I go back next year?

Me: Okay, now the real agenda comes out. So this 'I am a better person,' is a set up for the 'I should go back next summer,' pitch. Very impressive! (Note: he is a great salesperson.)

Son (laughing): Maybe there is a little bit of that. Seriously, I do believe that I became a better person. But can I go back next year?

Me: We will talk about it. So... you became a better person by staying away from your phone, spending a lot of time thinking and eating well?

Son: Are you going to tell me, 'I told you so'?

Me: You may have to earn a large portion of the tuition yourself if you want to go back, but we can discuss it.

I wanted to tell my boy, "I told you so," but I also wanted to tell my boy that it's fantastic that he figured out some important life lessons at such an early stage of his life:

  • Turn off your phone.
  • Think about what type of person you want to be.
  • Eat well!

These lessons will serve you well in the years to come.

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