Blossoming Friendship

High water on High Falls in North CarolinaIt’s a big topic of conversation around here— all the rain we’ve been having. It really has been phenomenal, raining just about every day at some point, heavy showers lasting for an hour or more, and some days seeing little relief. As a result, our nearby creeks and rivers are extraordinarily flooded. For example in the Dupont State Forest, this photo of High Falls shows the power of the Little River as it crashes down 125 feet (Compare it to the photos here.). While this amount of rain does make us shift our kayaking, canoeing and rafting schedules a bit, it also makes for dramatic hikes to view waterfalls. We’ll be busy and having a great time no matter what the weather, but I’m pleased to report that today was an almost completely dry day. We had just a tiny spray of rain for about 15 minutes, and that was it.  Good news!

Today we welcomed to camp our second July mini session campers, all 116 of them. This is exciting for everyone—for the full session girls already here because they will now have many more friends to play (do camp!) with, for the returning campers (which is about 75% of them) because they will be reuniting with camp friends, and for our new Rockbrook campers because they will finally get to experience camp for themselves. For everyone, this is the kind of excitement that matters on a personal level, an excitement that’s tied to people and the positive relationships the Rockbrook community inspires. Arriving at camp fires up a joyful feeling of friendship rekindled and presently born anew. It’s a palpable vibe everywhere here.

Camp Cabin wins spirits paddleAround noon, once everyone had safely arrived, we gathered the whole camp on the hill in the shade (yes, there was sun out to make that shade!) of the walnut tree. With crazy creek chairs spread in all directions, the directors, activity counselors, and the Hi-Ups presented several skits and songs for everyone. For our new girls, this was their first introduction to some of the craft projects, adventures, games and activities planned for this coming week at camp. For all of us, it was a chance to belt out the line songs (Juniors, Middlers, or Seniors) loud enough to echo them across the valley.  This photo shows the cabin recognized this week for demonstrating exemplary Rockbrook Spirit… kindness, generosity, friendship, enthusiasm, and encouragement. To recognize this accomplishment, they will proudly display this RBC “Spirit Paddle” in their cabin for the week.

First time swimming testAfter a fantastic lunch of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, steamed green beans, fresh tomatoes, and sweet watermelon (comfort food for a first meal…), the mini session girls changed into swimsuits so they could demonstrate their swimming skills to our team of lifeguards. The girls arrive in cabin groups led by their counselor, all ready to get wet. Chrissy, the Director of the waterfront, begins by welcoming everyone and reviewing all the important rules this area requires, our tag system being the most important. There are rules about using the diving board and the water slide (“Big Samantha”), about where swimming is allowed in the lake, and about when the lake is open or closed. Following this review, the girls take turns jumping in the water off of the dock, swimming 50ft out, 50ft back, and treading water for 1 minute. This can be  disconcerting, especially for the youngest campers, so we are very careful to assess everyone’s mood as they step up on the dock and to provide gentle encouragement. We want this experience to be positive, even if a girl has trouble completing the entire series of skills. When someone struggles in this deep water, we require her to swim in the shallow end of the lake and to wear a life jacket until she can pass the test later.

Face painted camp girlsGirls Camp Dunking BoothLater in the afternoon, Chase, Grace and about 14 counselors set up an “activity tour” for everyone that combined group games, “minute to win it” type challenges, a dunking booth, and fun little snacks stationed all over camp. The girls and their counselors ran from station to station… getting their faces painted, untangling “human knots,” playing “I’m a Rockbrook Girl,” nibbling popcorn and cotton candy, tossing eggs to each other (ideally without breaking them!), and dunking their brave (and eventually wet) counselors. It was a great way to spend the afternoon together, getting to know each other and the different areas of the camp at the same time.

It was a great first day of the mini session—fine weather, a really nice feeling of blossoming friendship, and good fun all around.

Anxious about camp?

Happy Summer Kid SwimmingGoing away to camp, particularly to an overnight or sleepaway camp, is a big step for kid. Being separated from parents, meeting loads of new people, and trying lots of new challenging activities— all these can be a little scary. Imagining it all, it’s easy to worry and find yourself asking “What if…?” kinds of questions. In fact, it’s just as common for parents to be scared and worried too. They also can suffer from a certain amount of “separation anxiety.”

There are a couple of things that can help both parents and kids feel better about this. First, realize that this is perfectly normal and all parents feel nervous about being away from their children for extended periods of time. Likewise, all children see their parents as their basic source of comfort and can at first be reluctant to go without it. Being away from each other requires both parents and children to develop a new sense of trust. Parents must trust the camp (its directors and staff, in particular) to take good care of their children, and each child must learn to trust themselves and their abilities away from home.

Fortunately, summer camps are ideal places for this kind of growth. They offer safe, structured environments where each girl finds plenty of fun things to do, but more importantly, caring adults trained to encourage her to make her own decisions, and to be more independent and self-confident. Camps have a lot of experience in this. They know it can take time, but have seen thousands of children succeed at camp and be better prepared for challenges later in life.

If you are considering summer camp for the first time, it can help to practice the kind of healthy separation camps represent. For example, it’s a good idea to schedule sleepovers at friends’ houses or other long weekends away from home.  Even with something this simple, kids learn they can do things on their own.

Camp is a wonderful experience for everyone.  For both parents and kids, it’s a chance to grow up a little.

Kids’ Freedom to Play

Kids Summer Free Time

“I’m so glad you build into each day plenty of free time.”

Yes, our daily camp schedule includes three different blocks of time when kids can do what they want— right before lunch, right before dinner and right after dinner.  Before lunch and dinner we open the lake for a “free swim,” a time when anyone in camp can come down for a dip.  Otherwise, kids can hang out in their cabin with friends, play games on the hill, explore the creek by “Curosty,” write letters home, chat with their counselor, prepare a skit for evening program, or just read a book.  There are so many options.

This kind of free time is such a welcome relief from the overly scheduled, competitive, pressured life so many kids deal with at home and at school.  Grades! Sports! Music Lessons! Home Chores!  Since their childhood is almost “job-like” with its extensive commitments and expectations, kids really need a place that allows for their own pace, their own interests, and their own sense of fun to flourish.  At Rockbrook, we all enjoy this, every day.

After all, you gotta have free time to really play.