Sunday, June 19, 2011

Putting on my Parent Hat

One of the things I've enjoyed most about this summer is re-learning the organization behind how camp runs. As an alum and former staff member, I've had great confidence in the staff members and what the camp program offers my children, but experiencing it as a staff member with my parent lens has caused me to appreciate it even more. It may be as simple as what is in various storage sheds around camp, but the thought behind what happen when, how it happens, and where things are placed has tickled me to no end. Frankly, I can't help but marvel at the logic behind the controlled chaos all day long.

Many of my friends don't get why camp is so important to me. I've long said that this particular camp is one of my favorite places on earth, and the memories I have attached to this place are pretty powerful. I only spent two summers here as a child, and one summer as a staff member when I was in college, but those summers were amazing.

Allen, my friend who is one of the directors and teaches horseback and rappelling (just as he did 28 years ago), and I "talked" a bit via facebook last fall. I told him one of those memories then. On one particular day my last year at camp as a camper, I was riding a horse that was not "mine" for some reason, and that horse ran me into a tree, which both knocked me off and caused my neck to get rather scraped up. It was all I could do to get back on a horse - I don't remember if it was the one that threw me off, but I had to get back on in order to finish up the trail and get back to camp.

Later that day, we went to the rappelling tower, and I, despite being very sore and scared to death, managed to walk down the wall. It was my first and last time doing so - I wasn't willing to do it again.

As I walked away, Allen called after me and said something like, "Lee, you've had a great day!" I don't remember what I said, or what my facial expression was, but I do remember feeling incredulous. He went on to say that getting back on a horse and facing my fear had made the day a great one.

I've never forgotten that.

As a parent, I often think about what I want my children to experience in life, and what I need to do to ensure that they get what they need during their formative years. It amazes me how much of what I want my children to experience can be found at camp. They need a place to try things that scare them in a safe environment. They need the chance to build their confidence and learn some independence. They need a place off the grid where it's ok to be who you are. And as a parent, I think of all the things they have the opportunity to do at camp that I could not begin to offer for them at home. From water skiing, horseback riding, archery, tennis, swimming, a water playground, learning wilderness skills... there's so much here for them to do. Further, these things are taught by college age students and adults who help make the activities fun and who they often look up to.

So, finding myself as a parent working at camp, I often think about what I want my children to get out of camp, and I look for ways to make it happen for other children. It may be a smile, a compliment, or a specific example - helping a child hammer "just enough" so the product is theirs, and showing them how to correct mistakes. In many ways, it's inserting myself "just enough" to help foster those positive memories for others much like was done for me.

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