June 11, 2016
We have reached the end of our first week of camp. Susie Ma’am and I have completed every Friendship Game/Man Cave and had a great time doing so. The campers and counselors have all found their camp rhythm and routine. Cabins have transformed from a mish-mash of individuals to functional groups.
In short, we are exactly where we hope to be on the first Saturday.
I, however, find myself in a reflective mood. I beg your forgiveness as I tell you why.
Susie Ma’am and I have 4 children. Three of them graduated from high school three weeks ago. These three, Wiley, Liam and Terrill, are also counselors this summer. [Note: they are not triplets. Our daughters both skipped a grade between 3rd and 5th grades, so Terrill (18) has been in the same class as the twins, Wiley and Liam, (19). The boys are a year older than other seniors because we pulled them from school 4 years ago to backpack Europe, New Zealand, Nepal and Southeast Asia. We never get summer vacations with our own children. We are incredibly lucky to share our summers with your children. But we wanted to have some family travel time. So we simply crammed 10 summers of vacation into one season.]
The grainy photo I share with this article is of Wiley at camp in 2004. Part of me still sees a little of the skinny 7 year-old when I look at him as a 19 year-old.
I am so proud of all of them, but I am also trying to process the idea that they will soon be leaving the nest.
Susie Ma’am and I wonder if we have shared enough wisdom and insight to prepare them for college and the “real world”. Hey, we are parents too and therefore always wonder if we have done enough.
But a recent conversation with them made me feel better. They assured me that they are ready for the real world. They can travel. They know they can make friends and adjust to a new culture. They are conscientious.
“After all Daddy, we have been campers all our life.” In addition to attending Camp Champions for 11 or 12 summers each, they have attended 7 other camps in 4 different states. They do not just suspect they can thrive out of our shadow, they KNOW they can. “After all that, college will be a breeze.” [Note: we sent them to other camps so that they would have the experience of being a camper without mommy and daddy around. We attempted to emotionally prepare ourselves for them to prefer one of these other camps, but to a child, they fell in love with Champions. That was a wonderful development for us!]
Susie Ma’am and I are so proud when we hear this. Our pride does not change the fact that they seemed to have grown up so fast.
I share all of this not to be indulgent, but to let you know what a wonderful thing you are doing for your children. As parents, we want to protect our children, but we also want to prepare them for a time when we cannot be there. One of the most difficult challenges is knowing when (and how) to protect less and prepare more.
I believe that camp is an unequalled opportunity to prepare in a big way while still protecting. This only difference is that adults other than you are doing the protecting. As a result, campers develop confidence and independence while still benefiting from loving, watchful eyes. They learn that they can not only survive, but thrive outside of the parental shadow.
That is a truly great gift.
But (to warn you) we cannot promise that it will be easy when they are leaving the nest. We will miss ours. [Note: in the spirit of full disclosure, our graduates have all opted for a Gap Year, so we will get to have one more family adventure this fall, but the separations looms nonetheless.] But while we will miss them, we are confident that they are ready to shine without us.
Ultimately, that has always been our goal. It is also our goal to partner with you to help your children be ready to shine as well.