One of my favorite things about working in the office at Camp Lincoln is talking with the parents of first time campers. Some of them call with long lists of questions they’ve found online someplace. Others call and don’t even know what to ask because it seems so overwhelming. Either way, they are looking for me to tell them one thing; that their very precious child will be safe and have fun at our camp.
The truth is, not every camp is right for every child. So I like to talk with them about their expectations and what kinds of experiences their child can look forward to at Camp Lincoln. In the end, some decide their child isn’t ready yet, and decide to try again next year. Other parents feel more at ease after our talk, confident they’ve made the right choice for their family.
This summer, I found myself on the opposite side of this situation. My older daughter, Lexi had been attending camp for several years, having a great time and making lots of new friends. Lexi is naturally outgoing. She’s the child I don’t worry about. She makes her way in the world without fear. However, this summer, my younger daughter was old enough for camp. Libby had always been a shy child. When we visited friends, she would sit on my lap rather than play with the other children. She rarely made eye contact or spoke with other adults. I was terrified at the idea of her being at camp. How would she get through the day? Would she be able to function in a larger group? Would she find someone to connect with? I wasn’t sure. And I knew once we made the decision to leave her daycare center for the summer, we couldn’t go back. I decided she would give it a try. I signed her up for 8 weeks of Critter camp, and crossed my fingers.
The first day of camp, I was so nervous! I wanted to follow her to the amphitheater and watch to make sure she was okay. I didn’t. I put my trust in her, and in the camp counselors, and I watched my little four year old walk tentatively out into a whole new world.
Then I went into the office to do my job-making sure all 450 campers arrived safely at camp, and got on the right bus at the end of the day. I was very busy, but all day I worried. I didn’t go out and try to find her. I didn’t look for her counselors to ask how she was doing. I knew they would let me know if there was a problem. No news is good news, right? It was a long day.
When camp was over, I walked down to the post camp program to pick Libby up. I found her running around, playing with a group of other children. When she saw me, she ran over to give me a hug. I asked how her day was. She looked up at me with an exhausted grin on her dirty face and said “it was AWESOME!” All the tension I had been holding on to melted instantly away. I was beyond happy.
Throughout the summer, I watched as my timid, shy daughter became confident and easy going. She told me stories about how she helped out when some of the younger campers struggled during the day. She talked about all the counselors, and how much fun they were. She shared endless stories about the activities they did each day. At the beginning of the summer she was afraid of water. By the end, she was swimming without help and wanted to be in the lake for hours! At the beginning of the summer, she couldn’t have a conversation with a new person unless she was on my lap. At the end, she rattled on about all her new friends, and the things they like to do.
Summer has been over for a few months, but the changes in Libby’s personality have stuck around. She started a new school and was excited about it rather than nervous. Her teachers tell me she makes friends easily and loves to help out in the classroom. I can’t believe she is the same child!
Thank you, Camp Lincoln for pushing Libby (and me) out of our comfort zones so we could both experience amazing growth and change. I don’t think we could have done it without you.