Dear Parents and Friends,
Just as we let out for campfire it began to sprinkle and now about thirty minutes later it’s raining on those tin roofs and children are hearing the waterfall of rain that is like the sandman times two. Living here as we all do each summer has so many touches with nature and sounds. Last week several deer just decided they would parade around camp for several days. One doe has two fawns that are accompanying her on the family rounds. One of my favorite human touches of camp is waiting on the front porch of the dining room each morning to watch the Hillsiders come down from their cabins and run down the path to their gathering area right at the steps of the porch. I think the younger you are the faster you run. We once had a Playhouse counselor who wore a tutu every morning to breakfast and she and her co-counselor and all the girls would scream to the top of their lungs as they ran past the Mill and toward us as we watched their arrival to the steps. I promise to have some video of this asap over the next few days.
On my daily rounds this morning I got to Yanderside just after they had made some beautiful scarves. This is an amazing craft skill the children pick up and they come out with some very nice creations. Pottery is right next door and they were making whistles out of clay and forming them into all kinds of shapes and animals. From there it was just across the path to the Mill where staff were milling, grinding and taking our campers back in history to the time of the 1890’s when the Mill was started. Life was very different back then, yet we have retained a feel for the work that the average person had to do just to take the corn he or she had grown and turn it into food for his family and feed for the animals. It really provides a greater appreciation of where our food comes from and hopefully a greater appreciation of how hard many farmers work. This morning’s breakfast of grits and scrabbled eggs came partially from the Mill.
From there I visited soccer where they were working on drills and also our mountain bikers who were working with a strong and enthusiastic group of bikers that took on all challenges on our little course in the middle of camp. There are 3 miles of single track trails on our property but the crew have to learn the basics and foundations before we head out to those. Climbers were climbing at the climbing wall and learning their knots. Part of learning to tie a knot is learning to tie a neat knot. A neatly tied knot is a safer knot and stronger knot. All the bends and curves are even and there is equal stress on all parts. We have a saying about knots at camp; “A not neat knot is a knot not needed”. I get some puzzled looks from campers and that statement, as I did this morning helping our staff teach the figure 8 follow thru to a group of campers.
This is our second day of camp and what little homesickness we’ve had has dwindled. Children soon realize that our environment can be just as nurturing as maybe home with more siblings (cabin mates) involved. Camp is such a great place for children to stretch themselves and take this experience and grow. Psychologist Michael Thompson wrote an entire book about the importance of child-parent separation. Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow urges helicopter parents to land their hovercraft and set their kids on a path to success. Thompson intended to write a book about all sorts of away-from-home experiences, but he zeroed in on the “magic of camp” after deciding that it’s where most kids first battle homesickness only to emerge triumphantly independent. ”We’re so intertwined with our parents psychologically, if you want to know who you are, it’s helpful to get away from them” says Thompson.
Most camps like us post lots of photos of campers each day. Some camps even allow campers to accept emails and respond back home on one of the many camp computers. Not on my watch thank you. I don’t put up our pics to allay your fears and anxiety but to let you know what your child is experiencing. I think we have a good thing going on here and feel confident that we can provide some aspects of short term away from home experiences that parents and school can’t provide. We’re also not interested in providing your child’s journey through photos. We want you to capture his or her thoughts when they arrive home and have them describe their experiences to you as they interpret them and not through your interpretation of photos you see of them. This is part of what we call the Simple Joys of Childhood.
What we see at camp is that for the average homesick camper, it takes two or three days to get over it and start realizing the fun you can have. We’ve got one camper in our older folks program who has struggled since day one with homesickness and we’ve worked with the parents and camper to get to this point of making it. I’m so proud of this camper on so many levels after witnessing an absolute breakdown on the phone with mom and dad. I was thinking at the time, no way, homeward bound. But.. here we are after working with the camper (and the parents being very strong on the home front), the camper is as happy as a clam and I’m sure will be so much stronger for the experience.
Children need independence and need to feel that they can do something hard on their own. It’s easier sometimes when another adult mentor besides the parent is the wind in their sails to encourage them on to success. We’re sailing right along here at GV and hope you reap some stories written on the wind when your child returns home. Stay tuned!