Going With Your Gut by: Guest Blogger, Cindy Hensen
Have you ever made a decision with your gut? Have you contemplated over whether you made the RIGHT decision after emotions, logic, fear, and external influences have questioned it? Usually decisions like these can be big ones..... life changing ones. If you are a parent, like, me, they are decisions you make for your kids. These decisions come in many different shapes and sizes and for me, it's been pre-school, elementary school, and now overnight summer camp. Nothing earth shattering, but definitely a tough one for my husband and I.
Some parents are very adamant that summer camp for kids can shape their lives more than academic, sports, and extra curricular activity involvement. Of course, camp does take all of those aspects of kids lives and combines them into an incredibly accepting environment to practice those skills. William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard, writes:
“What can be negative is when people lose sight of the fact that it’s important to develop broadly as a human being, as opposed to being an achievement machine. In the end, people will do much better reflecting, perhaps through some down time, in the summer.”
(Laura Clydesdale blog: https://www.thestar.com/life/2016/05/19/overnight-summer-camps-are-better-for-your-kids-than-sat-prep-classes.html)
Cue my gut wrenching decision - "Do I send my 6 year old daughter to a two week sleep over camp?!" I didn't go to summer camp until I was 14. It was basketball camp, therefore it was completely dedicated towards sharpening a skill I already wanted to focus on. I do remember the fun social moments we shared off the court, and love those memories.
I had no idea what I was missing until this past weekend.
My excited little girl and I embarked on a Mother - Daughter weekend at the summer camp that we decided we want to send her to for 12 nights this summer. (12 nights sounds so much better than 2 weeks to me, so that's how I measure it, ok?!) I had no idea what to expect. I had my own insecurities flying through my head... what will the other moms be like? Will a lot of them know each other? What is Kelsi going to think? What if she hates it? Am I really doing this?! We pull up to smiling faces welcoming us to camp! Kelsi was super excited, I was being very optimistic and positive, and we had no idea what was in store for us. I could write a small book on all the special things that took place that weekend, but I will sum it up with the top 3 things I experienced with my girl.
- Laughter. Her laugh. I have loved it since the first day I heard and it instantly makes my heart jump. It invigorates me and I just want to kiss her sweet little laughing face a million times, freezing this moment in time so I can remember her just like this. On Sunday when I was tired and ready to pack up and go home, K requested one more game of tag (cause she hadn't played it 75 times in 2 days), and I knew I had to oblige. As I chased her around, that laugh echoed through the humid mountain air. One of the other moms came around the corner and said, "I LOVE that laugh... it has been such a joy to hear all weekend. It's such a heart felt and genuine laugh." I stood there relishing in her comment. I figured I loved K's laugh because she's my daughter, but to know that other people feel joy when they hear it made me realize I don't hear it enough. We get into our schedules of breakfast, get ready for school/work, rush home to do homework, dinner, baths, bed... the usual weekly marathon. I don't get to hear that laugh enough - but it filled my weekend at camp.
- Activities - so many activities! We had just a small bite of what my girl will be doing during her 12 night stay. DIY Crafts, Canoeing, Paddle boarding, swimming, cooking, sock war, singing, chapel, talent competition, archery, climbing, swinging, and front porch rocking. There is an air of creativity and independence and these girls were loving every minute of it.
- Tribe Initiation - Choctaw for Life! There are 3 tribes at camp: Iroquois, Seminole, and Choctaw. K and I were initiated together which required painting each other's faces with our tribe colors and being able to join our fellow Choctaws in competitions throughout the weekend. Just as we were being initiated, a rainbow broke through the clouds. I instantly noticed the timing and knew that my grandmother was giving me her approval. She was always a proponent of being independent and doing new things, constantly telling me - "set your mind to it and you can do anything!" I found myself telling K that exact advice when she got nervous about trying something new. She pushed through and did great things!
I watched my daughter through a new lens in this safe place. She connected with girls her age immediately and wasn't shy to other adults or the counselors. She was making true, strong connections with these girls and she will share life long friendships with people she meets at camp. She will also be able to channel her very strong and stubborn tendencies into areas where she can thrive and excel at skills she may not have known she had. She's going to miss her family and we are going to miss her too, but she is going to have memories, friendships, and experiences to take with her through all of life's twists and turns.
I can't wait until the next Mother - Daughter weekend, but more importantly - I can't wait to pick up K after her 12 nights at camp and hear how much she loved it!