As we enter the countdown to the opening of the 2019 camp season, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a special gift camp is for children. I’ve also been thinking about how generous, wise, and trusting parents and guardians are to give it to their children. We know that a session at Eagle’s Nest Camp provides children with the opportunity to connect with nature, make new friends, learn new skills and have a joyful adventure in a place that most of them consider a second home. As parents and guardians, those are the kinds of things that we want for our children.

We also want to give our children opportunities to grow and mature, become more independent and learn to navigate the world without us – even though this makes us a little nervous. Sometimes growth experiences are a little challenging and uncomfortable, requiring a period of trial and error before there is success. Do you remember learning to ride a bike? I love riding my bike, but all I really remember about learning how to ride is an image of my Dad running behind me with his hand on the back of my seat. I imagine that the bike was wobbly for a while and that I was probably a little nervous, but I don’t remember falling or being scared, though I’m sure that I probably did and that I certainly was scared. My clearest memory is of the freedom I felt when I took off on my own. Like the hand of a father on the back of a bicycle seat, Eagle’s Nest is a supportive space where children can step out of their comfort zone, be a little uncomfortable at times, and learn how to do new things (including important life skills like taking care of your belongings, learning how to get along with others, asking for help when they need it…) on their own.

This winter I attended the American Camp Association’s national conference in Nashville, Tennessee. One of the keynote speakers was Wendy Mogel, the author of The Blessing of the Skinned Knee and a nationally known clinical psychologist, parent educator, and school consultant. Wendy spoke candidly about the value that children gain from experiencing challenge and disappointment. I doubt that any of us wants our children to be uncomfortable, to not be invited to a birthday party, or to not make the school soccer team; however, as Wendy has said these experiences “are necessary preparation for adult life…Allow your child to do things that scare you. Don’t mistake vulnerability for fragility. You have to let her take steps on her own, without holding your hand, if you want her to grow increasingly independent and self-confident.”

At camp we have created a community that is inclusive, nurturing and compassionate, and we set up systems to help children succeed, and to be celebrated and acknowledged for their efforts. Even so, there will still may be times when they may get in a disagreement with a bunk mate, don’t know what to do when the food for dinner looks a little intimidating, or be disappointed to get a “B” in cabin clean-up because someone left the light on. We will help your children learn how to deal with these experiences and grow from them. As you prepare your child for camp, let them know that you are proud of them for taking on this new adventure, and remind them that they can do it! And that if they need help from time to time they can ask a counselor or me to help them. That’s what we’re here for!

I’m looking forward to the summer with great excitement. I hope that it’s filled with sunshine, laughter, new friends and magical experiences, but, if it rains on a cookout, all of my past experiences at camp will help me deal with the disappointment and find a rainbow.

To read more about the value of summer camp experience, please check out this American Camp Association website.