Sunday, July 27, 2008


As my readers know, the Lovely Daughter is off camp-counseling at the place where I and all three of our children were campers. Back in the day (go ahead and laugh), a kid went off to camp for a month or two. In the present era of Helicopter Parenting, the Lovely Daughter will often care for two groups of girls during a typical three-week session -- two-weekers and one-weekers.

One of the concessions to parenting 2008-style is a camp website with photos and, usually, a letter from the camp director. I really enjoyed today's letter:

"I got in this morning to find an article on the front page of the New York Times that was about camps and parents. If you have time you may want to look it up and read it. It’s an interesting article on children who go away for long periods of time to camp and the behind the scenes work that directors and others do in working with parents. It was the #1 most emailed article today on the Times webpage. It’s entitled: Dear Parents: Please Relax, It’s Just Camp.

As a camp director, I tell our staff many times during the summer that we’re caring for the most precious part of a parent’s life. I think many of our young people don’t really grasp that until they become parents even though it’s hammered on throughout their time here. Yes, program is important but the staff are at the essence of what goes on here. It’s all about the staff in the cabin, in program, at the table and throughout camp. As we say on the web site and in our brochure, the strength of Gwynn Valley is its nurturing environment in a child centered world where each camper will learn and grow under the guidance of a mature and caring staff. Camp life really starts and ends in the cabin each day. When you come to camp the first real contact with camp is your cabin group and on closing day you eat with and spend the last few hours with your cabin group. The children love activities and all the fun things at camp but deep down those relationships with their counselors is the most important part of camp.

I went back to my notes tonight to look at what I had written and said to our staff on the opening night of staff training in late May just after our first meal together. I want to share just a little of what I spoke on while we all sat at the dinner table that evening. “Camp is more relevant than ever for children and is an essential experience for them. We probably serve too few and wish we could serve more. Camp is good for children and also good for parents….. It’s also hard to let go sometimes. Look what a camp like Gwynn Valley offers: care, stability, dependability, positive role models, a sense of community and a host of other things. The average child spends about 45 hours each week in front of some sort of screen and many of our children are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder (from the book: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louve).

So….it’s really not about camp. It’s about making people better by: building healthy relationships and building authentic human connections; carrying out human powered activities; bringing them up close to the natural world and providing healthy life skills. All this and more creates and promotes healthy life styles…... This week I hope you will revisit the child in you, learn how to be the adult in our child centered world and model yourself to impact lives with a laser focus on the child’s wellbeing.……”

It’s important work we do here and we love it for all its rewards. We so appreciate you sharing your children with us. I haven’t talked much about the day but you can just look at our photos and know that we’re having fun and learning a lot."


Kathryn J said...

I only wish I could afford to send my kids away for a month of camp. I think they would love it! They leave today for one week which cost just over $1300 for the two of them. I have to write another check today because the 13yo wants to waterski. It is their first time at sleepaway camp - one is excited, the other a bit more apprehensive.

The NYT article was funny although a bit scary because it was news and not satire. I promise to be too busy this week to barely notice my kids are gone.

The camp your lovely daughter is at sounds terrific. It sounds like the director sets a wonderful standard and tone for staff and campers alike. How much longer until the lovely daughter comes home?

Carol said...

The message that the director sends to both parents and staff is very similar to that of my son's camp. It's all about connections, family, and relationships in an environment that values each child's individuality and ability to take risks in a safe and supportive setting. (That was a VERY poorly written sentence!) The independence and self-confidence that are fostered in such a setting are really quite remarkable. Thanks for sharing, GG.

mompriest said...

My daughter loved camp. Went away all summer for years - to two different camps, one of them a double session. She thought she wanted to be a camp counselor...but life led her elsewhere. How cool that you and your kids have all gone to the same camp...

Diane said...

I loved camp but only ever went for one week of church camp (which cost about $40 then was was considered a stretch). times have changed!

yes, your camp sounds wonderful, as other have said.