Cultivating Who We Are

Girl camp drawing Do you know how to draw? What about play tennis? Paddle a kayak? Sing? Tell a joke? Act in a skit? Cook a meal? Do you have the personality, the talent, the physical or intellectual abilities to handle the challenges of these activities? Speaking about yourself, you probably have quick answers to questions like these. You might think, “I’m terrible at drawing, but I know how to play tennis,” for example. Over years of experience, now as an adult you probably think you have a good sense of your inherent traits, your likes and dislikes, your abilities, where you feel “smart” and where you don’t. You’re an old dog who’s learned your tricks… Thank you very much.

But what about your kids? Have they figured all of this out? Gosh, I hope not! We don’t want our children to decide who they are too soon, or conclude, based on their limited experience, that they are not creative, athletic, funny or smart in some way. That would be antithetical to every educational principle we hold. Believing that children are born with an immutable set of traits, a static personality, or inherently finite abilities, is preposterous. After all, we want just the opposite for our kids; we want them to learn, develop and grow.  For this reason, as parents, we do our best to provide all sorts of experiences that might inspire them, and guide them as they grow physically, emotionally and intellectually. We hope that through these experiences our children will gain skills, become more capable, and be happy and successful when they grow up.

Girl kayaking in whitewaterOf course, sending them to camp is a great example of this. The experiences they have here, away from the habits of home and school, are ripe for self-development. Everyday at camp there are physical challenges to meet —paddling boats, pulling back bowstrings, and swimming in the “freezing” cold lake, for example. There are opportunities to grow emotionally, like handling frustration or a twinge of homesickness that might creep in during rest hour. There are daily moments to be creative, to play with options, to dabble and engage new activities and experiences. One moment the girls might get a good closeup look at a spider in the shower, and the next, sample Rick’s tabouli (made with quinoa) along with their turkey sandwich. We want the girls at camp to embrace these challenges and to see them, even if they seem scary or “too hard” at first, as normal, even good. We hope the girls will realize it’s OK to struggle with these new experiences— perhaps to find painting a still life difficult, to completely miss the target in riflery, to feel nervous performing, or to decide that tabouli is weird.

This is an important attitude, and it’s one we emphasize here at Rockbrook. It’s what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” It’s “the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

camp girls weaving outsideThis is a joyful attitude that celebrates new experiences, embraces differences and challenges. It assumes neither the world nor ourselves are fixed, and that we can always learn and grow. When faced with struggle or criticism, a growth mindset holds onto a notion of improvement and future understanding. A growth mindset keeps “not yet” in mind.

So at camp, “I’m a little scared to go on the zipline” means “I haven’t yet had the courage for the zipline.” “I didn’t hit the target in archery” means “I haven’t yet hit the target.” “My drawing isn’t very good” means “I haven’t yet learned to draw better.” None of this means, as a “fixed mindset” assumes, “ziplines aren’t for me,” or “I’m no good at archery”, or “I have no artistic talent.”

With somewhat silly abandon, with “just for the fun of it” energizing everything, camp inspires this approach to life. The Rockbrook community is so encouraging, the friends around us so accepting, the girls here are often eager to try again when they feel there’s more to achieve, like mastering a more complex weaving pattern, clearing a higher jump at riding, or sampling a new kind of tabouli, for example. With this attitude, there’s always more out there and more within each of us.

Living in this community we all realize we are cultivating who we are, not discovering something that’s already set in stone.  We are learning that we can always learn more and be more. For our children, and I’d say for us parents too, that’s a really valuable approach to adopt. And through their time at Rockbrook, they’re getting a great head start.

Camp girls talking on porch

Birds of a Feather— A Mom’s Perspective

Bentley Parker
Rockbrook Camper, Counselor, Camp Mom

The Parker Girls

It had never crossed my mind that new situations involving unfamiliar people or circumstances could be uncomfortable for some, especially friends I knew well. I thought this was a skill acquired by adulthood, one that came with age. I had obviously taken for granted these social skills that I acquired at camp, where I’ve been coming since I was 7, which required me to meet new people and try new things every summer.

A Break on the RangeSynchronized FloatingYoga on Tutu TuesdayJust Hanging AroundHappy CamperI’ve realized I have been mistaken in assuming situations like this were easy for all, as I have often purposely met other moms outside of school, meetings, and sporting events to prevent them from feeling uncomfortable by walking in alone. I’ve recognized that the inexplicable confidence and laughter still comes naturally for me, as I was the only mom who stuck to the dress up plan and showed up to the premier of Hunger Games with pink hair. I’ve come to better understand that the unfamiliarity of people and situations surpasses the comfort zones of many, making the prospect of walking into a room with strangers and making a friend seem impossible.

I’ve now developed an even better appreciation of how these skills are developed as I’ve gotten the privilege to watch your children cultivate friendships and give birth to these character traits here at RBC. I recognize the confidence they develop when they come to camp not knowing anyone and yet leave with lifelong friends. As a mom of 3 girls, these are skills I can’t teach my children. These are skills that I’m grateful they have had the opportunity to gain here at Rockbrook.

I’ve also come to the realization that some of the tightest bonds I’ve formed have been with friends who were “camp girls,” long after our camper days were over. They were instantaneous friendships, because we immediately knew we were alike in so many ways. We had survived screened cabins, appreciated nature, respected various personalities, experienced new things, desired leadership, and possessed camp silliness.

If you are a parent of a camper reading this, let me assure you that you are providing a lasting legacy for your daughter. This opportunity is equipping her with a skill set that may seem invisible at first but that she will utilize throughout her lifetime. There are no words to adequately describe the bond camp creates or the traits acquired here, but the experience speaks for itself. She will continually reap the benefits of her camper experience throughout her life, and it will shape the person she becomes as a grown woman.

Camp birds are of one type of feather, and the bonds of the flock will always keep them together!

“How did we come to meet pal? What caused our paths to blend? ‘Twas fate we came to Rockbrook, and you became my friend.”

Full Circle

Rainy Day View

As my 13th session at Rockbrook comes to a close, the image of a circle keeps coming to mind. The circle of life is ever apparent and intimately experienced when much of your time is spent outside. The circle of cause and effect is somehow more immediate here. A Rockbrook MothHellos and goodbyes cycle round and round, and are felt to the core by most who pass through this space. The rain comes down, then it gently lifts back up to the sky, and then falls back down on the mountains once again. We even sing songs about silver and gold friendships, and we sing them in rounds. “A circle is round. It has no end. That’s how long I want to be your friend.” All of these circles are never ending, just as circles should be. I know this because I have seen these particular circles since my first year of camp, when I was eight years old. The depth and intensity of their colors may vary, but they are part of why Rockbrook keeps calling me home.

“Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get.” These truths apply wherever you go in life, but I have realized this summer that this circle is closer and more immediate here at camp than anywhere else that I’ve lived. ReunionsI don’t know if that is because we all live closely together in this beautiful microcosm of humanity, but I know that it happens. Speaking to a friend at the beginning of camp, we pondered on what made a specific person so magnetic and universally loved by all. We noticed that this person offered up her spirit wholly and unguarded. In a world that is often cautious and fearful, her openness and undiluted truth was beautiful to those around her. So she was surrounded by unguarded love and truth and beauty. I saw countless examples of this among people of all ages here at camp. Those who gave themselves fully and without reservation were met with like gifts ten fold. Even those with gray clouds and walls around them early on, were affected by all the positivity and unconditional love around them. They began to give off light, and it shone right back on them even more brightly. And it didn’t take long. Maybe life is more like a multifaceted mirror. Maybe that mirror is round, like a disco ball of light and color.

Until Next SummerThe Thursday before last was the first time I had ever been here for a Closing Day that wasn’t my day to leave as well. This took me out of my own feelings, changed my perspective, and brought into clear focus the intensity and beauty of emotion in that day. I had been there on Opening Day and seen campers say hesitant goodbyes to their parents, (and for many,) happy hellos to their camp friends. Now I was seeing them come full circle, with tearful goodbyes to friends and ecstatic hellos to parents. The emotion was palpable. As I looked through my camera lens, I was moved by the utter rawness of the feelings I saw. The joy was just as intense as the heartache, and it was all being felt at the same time.

So as this session comes to a close, I take solace in knowing that the circle keeps going around and we will be in this place again. I hope to hold tightly to the truth that what I experience is simply a reflection of what I am putting out there. I take with me a deeper understanding of how connected we all are. Sarah read us the words of Chief Seattle at our first chapel this session. His words illustrate this interconnectedness far better than I ever could: “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Dolly Robertson Herron
Camp Mom

Summer Flowers

A Camp perspective from Mama B

ChapelAttempts can be made to replicate a camp, stories retold, even plagiarized, but the spirit of Rockbrook can never be duplicated.

So what makes a camp distinct, different from the rest, making it a place that generations of girls, from all over the world, count down the days until they can return?  What is it that sets apart a place that mothers long for their daughters to experience what they did as children?

As a camper, counselor, mom of campers, and now camp mom, my answer to this question comes from reflection over my life, and how much camp builds character and develops skills used for a lifetime.  Although, through the years, my perspective has changed, Rockbrook’s legacy is untouched, its heritage valued, and its spirit stronger than ever.  Girls from Rockbrook have an indescribable bond, a link to one another, bound by the fact that they were “camp girls” together.

Girls from RBC enjoy sharing what they love about camp.  From a parental perspective, here are a few of my favorites:

CHOICES-When else in life do young ladies get to decide for themselves how to spend their entire day and what hobby, talent, or new experience to pursue?  In my opinion, this teaches decision-making skills and develops a sense of independence they carry with them to adulthood.  It also facilitates adventure, encouraging them to try new things, step out of their comfort zones, and embrace new opportunities.

SIMPLICITY-We live in such a fast paced world that we forget to notice the beauty around us.  Simple domestic life at camp creates an atmosphere to better appreciate the natural surroundings.  It eliminates distractions, so campers and staff notice the magnitude of the mountains, sound of the streams, and smell of the mountain laurel.  This less busy, slower paced environment also aids in the development of new friendships.

Cabin

LIMITED TECHNOLOGY-As the mom of a teenager, I have noticed a real void in the communication skills of teens today.  Because there are no computers, TVs, or phones at camp, girls communicate face to face, an invaluable lifelong skill.

TRADITION-A place rich in tradition binds girls together despite their differences.  A camp deeply rooted in traditions gives girls the comfort that some things are “unchanging” and safe place, despite their changing circumstances around them.  They look forward to the things they do every year down to the songs, Spirit Fire, and ice cream.

And finally, LAUGHTER!  It’s good for the soul.  Girls are free to be who they are, uninhibited from the pressures of the outside world.  Loud songs are encouraged, costumes welcomed, and all personalities accepted.

Miss RBC.jpg

In conclusion, my gratitude has grown as I’ve come to appreciate the camp experience.  The more time I spend here, the more I realize that Rockbrook Camp has helped shape and mold me into the person I am today, and no matter how old I am, I’ll always be a Rockbrook girl!

Bentley Parker–Auburn, Alabama

Rockbrook Girl 1979-2013