Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln. I dread-dread-dread the day when my child starts to proclaim this.
But I know many of you MilSpouses are already hearing it from your teens -- even though summer is just getting started. So we've put together this great list of three constructive ways your military teen can spend his summer break -- and maybe you'll even get to join him.
1. Hit a military teen adventure camp. Until late last month I had no idea these even exist. Did you know your teen can attend a free adventure camp created specifically for them? And what is more, these camps sound amazing.
The DoD has funding to send about 1,000 teens to one of 31 adventure camps year round across the U.S. The camps range from just a couple days to a week long. Some camps even have funding set aside to cover the cost of getting kids to the location. And the camps in Kentucky are designed for teens to attend with their servicemember parent.
The folks who organize these camps at the DoD told me they look at these as a great way to help teens -- a population that is traditionally harder to support.
"It’s easy to support the younger children, the school age and varying youth programs," Eddy Mentzer a senior policy analyst with DoD's Military Community and Family Policy office. "It’s a lot harder when we try to reach out to teens. The teen adventure camps are one way we have been able to reach out with a very unique opportunity that most kids wouldn’t be able to find on their installations."
And the people who run the camps see nothing but great results from those who attend. They said the camps are a chance for teens to bond with others like them while getting out, enjoying nature and learning something along the way.
"What I've found is the military teens bond maybe two to three times as quickly as youth in other teen groups," said Byron Marlowe, a program director for the adventure camps in Kentucky. "I think for them to be around other kids going through the same thing is really really important and I think you really cant put that into words. A lot of military teens are older or wiser beyond their years. They were forced to have the responsibilities of Dad when he was deployed and to let them be kids and have fun with other kids is really really important. I value being able to give that to them."
It's not to late to check out a camp for this summer. The camps in Colorado, for example, have not yet filled to capacity, and that program has a budget set aside to fly some campers in.
Check out the complete list of camps here -- and tell your teen to enjoy them for me. Oh how I wish I could go!
2. Visit a Blue Star Museum. This may not be nearly as exciting as an adventure camp, but it's still a great way to fill that summer time. Blue Star Families has partnered with the National Endowment for the Arts and DoD to work with museums across the country to offer free admission to military families.
Over 2,000 museums have joined the program -- all offering free admission to military ID card holders between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That's plenty of time to get your teen in there, interacting with exhibits and learning something. Every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have participating museums.
3. Visit a National Park. You are probably tired of hearing me talk about how amazing I think National Parks and how rockin' I think the free park pass for Active Duty, Guard and Reserve ID card holders is.
But I'm going to talk about it again anyway. In case you missed it, thanks to a program with Interior Department, active, reserve and guard ID holders (sorry retirees -- don't shoot the messenger, please) can land a free National Park America the Beautiful pass.
This little beauty will get you free admission to any national park in the country as well as use of areas run by the Army Corps of Engineers (such as Land Between the Lakes, located near us here at Fort Campbell, Ky.) While this pass won't get you free or reduced camping, it does get a discount from some ticketed park activities, such as tours at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, for example.
What other free activities have you found for your military teen this summer? Share them below.