When Susie Ma’am and I went my 15thgraduate school reunion, people would ask me, “What is the best part of being a camp director?”
I think they were guessing I would talk about waterskiing (which is cool), songs and skits (which are awesome) or “only working for the summer” (which is entirely and completely incorrect). [Note: if you want to aggravate a camp director, just ask her what she does the rest of the year. No – even better – jealously suggest that it must be fun taking 40 weeks off each year. That will get a rise out of them. For those of you wondering, we run Outdoor Education programs and retreats for all but 3 months in the winter. We also are improving the program, recruiting staff, meeting new campers and striving to make camp better every year. Non-summer camp is still busy, just quieter.]
We did not hesitate to answer the question about “the best part of camp”.
But in true camp director style, we answered with a story. If you read the “Falling In Love With Camp” article by Susie Ma’am, this is a redundant story. But I repeat it for a reason.
The year before, our twin boys were 5 years old. They were too young to attend camp, but they loved sitting with the “big boys” in the Fillin’ Station (the dining hall). One of the twins, Liam, always sat next to an unfailingly cheerful, athletic redhead named Sam Sir. Sam Sir was in 7th grade. In Liam’s mind, no cooler human had ever drawn breath.
But Sam Sir left at the end of First Session.
On the Sunday of the Second Session (18 hours later), Liam runs through the house to the backdoor. As he prepares to explode through the door, we ask him, “Hey buddy. Where are you going?”
“I am going to see my friend”.
Crestfallen, we realized that we needed to console our clueless son.
“Liam, Sam Sir left yesterday. These are new campers now.”
“Oh Mommy and Daddy, I am going to meet the friends I haven’t met yet.”
To us 16 years ago, that was the best part of camp.
I have shared that story for years. Susie Ma’am’s article has made it a blog stable. But I am feeling very different about it this year.
This is the first summer that Liam Sir will not be at camp. Similarly, our oldest daughter (Terrill Ma’am) is also away this summer. Both are in double majors in programs that have fairly brutal requirements. In order to graduate on time, they both must do academic and internship work this summer.
Wiley Sir (Liam Sir’s twin) and Virginia Ma’am (our youngest) are here this summer, but it is definitely different. Our weekly tradition of taking our family photo at the camp dance (with everyone including Dodger the dog in costume) has ended. The photo at the beginning of this blog is an example.
And I am feeling a slight sense of loss. Part of us longs for that family photo.
But when we step back, we are so proud of all of them. They have transitioned from childhood to adolescence to adulthood remarkably well. They can travel alone (the older three all survived solo travel overseas before college and Virginia will do so during a Gap Year) and are thriving in their post-home environments. For example, in college, the oldest three comforted their less prepared fellow freshmen.
We have every reason to think they will be likable, employable, and content.
I also know that none of their growth would have happened without camp (both here and elsewhere). The challenges and role models that have helped shape their lives have been powerful gifts for them and for us.
I am not sure why I share this. After all, you surely want to hear about your kiddo’s lives and not ours. I guess I want to give you a little sneak preview of the long-term gifts of camp.
But in the meantime, enjoy them as they are!