“ 'Confidence is the enemy of anxiety' is another nugget that Dr Rao shared. As children build skills in self-regulation, self-expression, flexibility, perspective taking and more- they grow more confident, more autonomous, and more immune to the stress of their day. We camp professionals know a well-rounded day of play and meaningful activity are an amazing way to serve children of all ages, now we also know the power of our camp culture to unwind some of the stress and anxiety our world is dishing out..."
For all of my years in working with children and families, I’ve immersed myself in the constant unfolding body of research about raising healthy and happy kids. As a parent and a professional, it’s like I’m chasing the holy grail (or maybe just chasing my holy tail), working so hard to “get it right”- which turns out to be a fast moving target.
“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.” –L.M. Montgomery
The New England chill has settled in the air today and the camp office is SO very quiet. It’s hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago we were in the throes of a hot summer afternoon with 450 campers and counselors laughing, splashing, building, climbing, singing, and playing in a campus-wide bustle of activity. It was like we blinked, and it was over.
One of the first staff interviews I ever held as the new Summer Fenn Director was a candidate who had formerly been a camper here. It’s important to note that our camp ages out at 15 years old for campers, and then we don’t hire staff unless they’ve graduated high school and are at least 18. No C.I.T. program, no junior counselors. It’s a model that has worked for us, and earned us the reputation of having the stellar staff of professionals of which we’re so proud.
My two sons are so lucky. They have a Camp Director mom which affords them a summer of great programming, friendship and fun every year. They may not always feel so lucky, as I remind my boys to put on sunscreen, and check in with their counselors behind their backs, and peek out my office to see if they are attempting the high ropes course.
There’s one scene here at Summer Fenn that always captures the essence of camp for me. Sometimes it pulls at my heart strings so intensely, and makes me well up with pride and satisfaction. It happens when we gather in the morning at the canopies in the meadow as campers arrive, and again at the end of the day as we await the arrival of parents at pickup.
Each morning we gather the whole camp in a close circle. This week that number was somewhere near 400 campers and counselors, standing together in the early sun, welcoming the new day with our summer family. I don’t use a bull horn or a megaphone (I think somewhere in the Camp Director job description it says “Must have ability to project surprisingly loud voice”), and I don’t have announcements or handouts.
As a camp director I appreciate my staff for making sure every child has a helmet for the climbing wall, for mountain biking, for snow tubing during Vacation Camp… but as a parent I wish there were a magic helmet for all the other tender, tentative moments of their childhood. A helmet to protect them from failure, from insecurity, from the apprehension of their first day in a new school, town, or camp.