My daughter is going to going off to sleep away camp (Camp Calumet Lutheran in Ossipee, NH) for the first time tomorrow. My wife was asked to write a letter to the staff. She wrote this wonderful and moving letter I had to share it.
Like all of you, I have a Calumet story. My story may have started a wee bit before your time, when I learned to walk here at Calumet as a family camper – circa 1978. I loved family camping each summer with my church family and dreamed of when I could (like my big sister) have my turn at resident camp. I kicked it off in girls cabin one at the age eight and was an eight year camper leading up to being a CIT, JC, SC, Waterfront Director/Swimming Department Head and finally Program Director. That last summer I started dating my husband (he was the CIT trainer). We were married two years later. We have returned as family campers every summer since, even when that meant traveling from New York for our annual camping trip with our life long friends and family who are fellow Calumet alumni. Well, that brings us to today, I have two kids and I have a new chapter to add to my Calumet story. Tomorrow I am the mom dropping off my eight year old daughter for her first time at resident camp. I will be on the receiving end of your smile, your firm hand shake and your assurance that it will be the “Best summer ever!”
We have been planning for this day for a long time. We have been saving money, filling out paper work, buying the right sandals, labeling clothes with a Sharpie, the list goes on and on. For at least eight weeks my daughter has been making her own plans. I had to start limiting her to three camp questions a night, which are all routed in nervous excitement. Tonight she asked, “What if I don’t make a friend?” But some nights she asks more logistical questions like “Where will I put my wet bathing suit?” She has even fallen asleep while making her packing check lists in her journal. Reality is hitting for me. I am leaving my first baby with you for a week. I have never gone a day without talking to her, and never more than 2 or 3 days without seeing her. Ever. I bet I am not alone either. Lots of moms and dads are going through the same thing, and it feels like a really huge milestone. I have been at Calumet my whole life. It has shaped me into who I am and still, STILL I am nervous to leave my daughter. My bet is I am not the only one nervous. I bet you are nervous and I know she is excited, but is also nervous.
A few years back, my son had a preschool teacher who wanted to speak to me one day about his difficulty getting along with the other kids. I was upset and embarrassed as I went to meet with her. That day she said to me, “We all have something we are working on, and this is just his thing.” She was right. Each one of us has “something” we are working on. For some kids its how to interact with a peer when they are nervous, for some kids it’s that they are afraid of fish in the lake. For some of us it is being patient enough to wait for the last kid out of the cabin when the bell already rang for breakfast without loosing our cool. No counselor is perfect, no camper is perfect and no parent is perfect. We all have something we are working on and we get to be teachers to each other along the way.
I am sure you have heard the cliché “It takes a village to raise a child”. Here’s the thing about clichés, there is usually some truth in them. I would love to keep my daughter home with me all summer. We could busy our days with crafts, reading, making fairy house, swimming, ice cream and baking and I could teach her all kinds of things and she would be fine. BUT I would be kidding myself. There comes a point when kids have to take the tools we have given them and try them out. Away from their parents. My daughter hears me tell her every day, “You can do it!”, “Just be yourself!”, “Just try it!” and “Do your best!” but the truth is, until she believes it on her own they are just my words. It is in the trying, the failing and the succeeding that she will know those words. That is called self esteem, self respect, and self confidence. If you knew it or not- this village includes you. You are part of this village raising my daughter. And it’s your turn.
I am nervous, you may be and so is she, but it is time. And we all have an amazing opportunity to learn and grow. I have faith and it is deep and strong because it was nurtured right where you are. Calumet is a powerful gift. This week when I am missing my daughter, my eight year old who I have spoken to, hugged, kissed every day of her life….I will be okay because I will cling to knowing she is getting a gift and you are delivering it. Thank you for loving each child, for teaching them, encouraging them when they say “I can’t”, for slowing down, bending down, looking them in the eye and telling them it is okay and tucking them in with a hug, a story, a prayer and the assurance that they are loved.
We are nervous- that is because this is really big. I tell my kids all the time, “It is ok to be nervous, as long as the nervousness doesn’t stop you from doing something.” So onward we will go. You are in a very powerful position and I know that you are about to learn as much as my daughter will. We all have something we are working on. Your lessons will be different but each child will teach you something this summer, they are unique, they have questions, they have faith, and you will learn through the listening and the teaching. I know this because it happened to me.
Thank you for summer, a time to try new things. Watch over parents as they travel to Calumet with their most precious cargo. Be with the staff and guide their actions and words. Guide and comfort parents with the reassurance that their children will learn Your love by living in the Calumet community; a unique place where everyone is accepted and feels Your love in a tangible way that they haven’t ever felt before. Lord, we are all a little bit nervous, fill us with you big, big love. Amen
I will keep praying for you and praying that it really IS the Best summer Calumet has ever had!