If you’re from Ireland, you may have heard of Knockadoon Summer Camps. They’re an Irish language summer camp, very popular, and just around the corner from me – well, practically, perhaps not quite literally…
Anyway, a friend of mine had her 2 kids there for the 2nd or 3rd consecutive year and I decided to pop over and meet them all, see how they were getting on. Maybe try and get some scandal re potential romances etc – y’know, the usual old-person-embarrassment rituals (they’re so tolerant of me these two!)
They had a friend with them who I immediately decided to adopt, no surprise there, happens all the time. They looked well, clearly happy and relaxed so I didn’t anticipate much in the way of complaints. And after the hilariously frenzied scrambling over their mom for clothes, shoes and food we went for a stroll to the beach so we could watch the hardy folk – my crazy friend included – go swimming in the icy water (slight, only slight exaggeration). It was a gorgeous day.
We sat on the sand, sipped our cold drinks, and soaked up the sun. I’m always amazed at how kids love coming here, beautiful as it truly is. I was allergic at that age. Nothing would have persuaded me to go to Irish College. Nothing. So what do these kids love about it so much??
I asked my burning question:
“Soooo what’s your favourite thing about coming here?”
They were all seasoned students who’d been there before. They knew what they were at, the lay of the land so to speak. Used to the rules and boundaries, the staff, the parties, the work, and the unpredictable weather.
I was expecting the answer to be something about the social life, the craic in the dorms, or maybe being away from siblings or parents or just being near the sea even, but no. The answer came quick as a flash –
“Not being allowed have our phones” said one. “YA!” Say the others – immediately. ZERO hesitation. “That’s the best bit. It’s actually really nice”
Wow! Did NOT see that coming.
They spoke about not “having” to check their socials, getting to sleep sooner and better. Not having it get in the way of conversations. All good. And I looked at their faces. They were so sincere, so excited and now that I thought of it actually – the two I knew did look a lot better and more rested than usual.
We know this to be true, we know we’re all better off without our phone being glued to our hands and eyes, taking us away from ourselves and each other every hour of every day. We know we don’t sleep as well as we would without. We feel it creeping into our souls – the intrusion, the comparison, the dissatisfaction, the tension, the stress, the arguments.
These are the things they noticed too, these wise teens. They guessed they mightn’t keep it up back in the ‘real’ world. But they got a taste of what they agreed was freedom.
We sat back and watched my friend swimming, their friends diving off the pier, a cute toddler making a tunnel in the sand as her excited puppy-friend wagged and watched.
I kept my phone in my bag.
And I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.