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We are approaching the end of our third week for our four weekers and the halfway point for our Mini II girls, and we have had a BLAST. This was Holiday Week and we have celebrated Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Camp’s 105th birthday is tomorrow.

On Monday evening, just before dinner, the skies opened up and poured on us. Afternoon rain showers are such a common occurrence in the temperate rainforest of Western North Carolina. We average approximately 71 inches of rain each year. In typical camp fashion, most of camp ran onto the green with music playing in the background to dance and sing in the rain. Everyone got soaking wet and shared some of the biggest smiles you have ever seen. The joy and freedom of this spontaneous experience was profound to watch.

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This scene from Monday came back to me as I left for a quick run this afternoon. Today, the music I heard playing in the background was the Natasha Bedingfield song, “Unwritten.” This has long been a camp favorite, and I encourage you to read through the lyrics if you are not familiar with the song. In so many ways, it is an excellent anthem for a young girl at summer camp. My particular favorite part of the song is:

Feel the rain on your skin No one else can feel it for you Only you can let it in No one else, no one else Can speak the words on your lips Drench yourself in words unspoken Live your life with arms wide open Today is where your book begins

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Camp is an amazing place to find yourself and to define yourself. As I mentioned in my last blog, it is a place where you can be who you want to be, not who you are expected to be. However, this does not transpire in isolation. The entire design and focus of camp is to allow the campers to make their own choices and control their own decisions. Our counselors learn to support the girls in this decision process. We let our campers choose their own schedules. It is their decision whether or not to take a particular activity. By allowing them this freedom, we see more interest in learning the activities and in their willingness to challenge themselves to overcome any obstacle that arises. We watch this play out so many times each day: mastering a back handspring, jumping the first fence in riding, wet exits and rolls in kayaking, climbing to the top of a particular rock wall, etc.

We realize that often a camper’s activity selection does not match what you may have wanted them to take at camp. Are there some missed opportunities? For your perspective as parents, maybe, but for our camper, no. She is doing what is most important for her at this particular moment. Next year, she may take a totally different list of activities. If you have a particularly achievement oriented camper, our overall awards program will require them to stretch themselves into different activities.

We also ask a lot of our girls in group living. The girls are asked to be good community citizens by helping each other clear their dining tables, making sure trash finds its way to trash cans and if they notice something left behind, to place it in lost and found. In the cabin, we ask the girls to be responsible for their own belongings and their personal space. We expect beds to be made, trunks to be kept neat, and the girls share chores through the rest of the cabin cleaning showers, sinks, toilets, straightening clotheslines and sweeping floors. When the inspection score is high, they know they have a shot at a trip to Dolly’s as a reward.

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This may sound a bit mundane, but what it does for our girls is give them a sense of responsibility and worth. They know others are counting on them to play a role in the group’s success and quality of living. They take pride in doing a good job for themselves and for others. At home, doing the dishes and /or the laundry, walking the dog, taking out the trash or mowing the lawn gives this same sense of contribution to the overall wellbeing of her family.

If you follow my blogs you know how strongly I feel about giving our children strong roots in our families, but at the same time encouraging them to develop their own wings with which to fly. We cannot take every journey with our children. We cannot eliminate every obstacle from their path. We have to realize the value of allowing them time to be independent, especially as children, to prepare them to be successful adults. We must let them learn that other adults are invested in their wellbeing; that other adults can make positive contributions to their development. We also need to allow our children to fall and to fail. Struggles are good. The girls learn to try a new approach or to make the choice to move on to something new. This helps build internal strength and resilience which will allow them to get through the next challenge they will face. The pandemic has taken such a toll on our girls, but this will not be the hardest thing they will face in life. We all want our girls to be able to face the many challenges life will bring.

A girl who lives with her arms wide open and speaking her own words writes her own story. As her parents, you get to see her story unfold, and her time at camp is a big piece of the story she will write.