Your Child’s Time Away

Girls Tennis Camp shot

An article published in The Atlantic and written by Jessica Lahey caught my eye, and I wanted to pass it along because it speaks about how parents often feel when they send their children away to an overnight summer camp like Rockbrook. The article is entitled “A Summer Camp Lesson: Good-bye, and Go Away, Thank You Very Much” and argues that children benefit from time away from their parents because, as Michael Thompson author of Homesick and Happy claims, there are critical “developmental milestones” children must achieve on their own, separate from their parents. You may want to read the article. I found it a nice affirmation of our mission at Rockbrook. Through our camp program activities, trips, and special events, enlivened by our camp culture that emphasizes caring and kindness, and as modeled by so many admirable, friendly staff members, camp is a place of wonder, excitement and adventure for our girls. It’s a welcome haven ideally suited to foster the kind of growth we parents simply can’t provide our children… how to be happy despite setbacks (resilience), how to make friends (social confidence), how to feel good about our true self (high self esteem), and how simply to be more independent. It might be hard to admit, but it’s really good for our children to be challenged on their own, and camp is the perfect place to do it.

Camp Water Slide girl

The sheer fun of camp life and the encouragement quick to bubble up around here, make facing these parent-free challenging moments much easier too. For example, it can be pretty intimidating the first time you climb the tower and stare down from the top of our 50-ft water slide, “Big Samantha.” It looks like a long way down from up there, and the slippery ride is fast enough, and the splash at the bottom big enough to create some hesitation. Fortunately, the slide is described as “super fun” around camp, and for those a little nervous, it’s reassuring to see plenty of other girls racing back around the lake excited to do it again. Conquering that hesitation, and others like it, feeling the exhilaration of just doing it, can be a powerful boost to a child’s confidence… Even after camp.

Camper with bumble weaving loom

Here’s something fun. That flower-shaped item she’s holding is something called a “Bumble Loom,” and it’s used to weave cool thread bracelets and necklaces.  It’s just a flat piece of smooth wood with a hole in the middle and notches cut around the outside. The basic pattern uses 7 strands of thread (embroidery floss), all first pulled through the center hole, tied, but then divided so there’s one thread per notch. The girls then repeat a pattern of crossing one thread over to a different notch, twisting fibers and weaving as they go. The result is a colorful rope-like braid that can be tied and fastened to a lucky friend’s wrist, or perhaps given to someone special at home.

The Hi-Ups (our oldest campers: 10th graders) took a waterfall hike this morning to both Moore Cove and Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah Forest. We’ve been having our typical afternoon scattered showers recently, and with that rain, the creeks are full, making all of the waterfalls around here more dramatic. The girls were particularly impressed by the sparkle of the sun as it caught individual drops of water gently falling at Moore Cove. Photo opportunity? You bet. Delightful forest experience? Absolutely.

Hi-Up campers at Looking Glass Falls

Confident Sense of Adventure

Camp counselor with girl camper
During one of the many tours of Rockbrook we’ve been giving lately, a parent asked an excellent question. “What do you look for when hiring counselors?” It’s really an important thing to ask, and it’s something we think about a lot, all year round, in fact. We know that our counselors are certainly role models for the campers, but also friends, teammates, sisters and moms to the girls as well. The first thing we look for in a counselor is simply an enthusiastic, energetic, friendly young (high school graduate or older) woman who loves children. The best counselors are naturally “kid people.” They have an innate ability to connect with children, to listen to them, and communicate with them authentically.  This allows them to become really good friends and to forge great trusting relationships with the campers.  Of course, this makes camp fun and rewarding for everyone, camper and counselor alike. Even more specifically, another trait we look for in counselors, among many others, is a confident sense of adventure. This describes someone who isn’t scared to branch out and try new things, who is generally up beat and positive even when faced with the unknown or when something isn’t going exactly right (Raining? “No big deal! Let’s sing some rain songs…!”) Having a confident sense of adventure means being resilient, flexible, creative and improvisational. See how those are great qualities, and something that makes a wonderful role model for girls? There really is a lot of that going around at RBC.

Tying the knots for a bracelet bracelet being tied to camper's toe pottery thrown on the wheel

This year we are having the jewelry making activity meet on the porch of the hillside stone lodge. This porch, which is made of rough-sawed, oak planks, overlooks the lake and at the right spot, has a view of the mountains in the distance. There are a few rocking chairs out there and a big table with benches for the girls to use as they tie friendship bracelets, twist wire, string beads and weave necklaces. It’s a beautiful setting to spend time learning new friendship bracelet techniques (like that toe-tie!), and naturally just talking and laughing about nothing in particular. 🙂

If you’ve ever tried to throw a pot on the wheel, you know that it’s not easy. It takes great patience to learn because there are so many ways a spinning ball of clay can crumple, wobble or even fly off the wheel. Everything can be going great, perfectly centered, and then suddenly your nice bowl collapses and it’s back to square one. All of this makes it such a victory, a moment of pride, when a camper successfully throws something on the wheel, especially the first time.

Posing on the Blue Ridge ParkwayThe Hi-Ups took an exciting trip into the Pisgah Forest this afternoon, stopping first at Looking Glass Falls. This is one of the most well-known waterfalls in this area, partly because it’s about 60-feet tall, but also because it’s easily seen from the main road. We came ready to swim, so after walking down to base, all of us swam through the pool and the spray just past where the water was crashing down. A few of the girls ventured closer to let some of the water smack them on the back, but it looked a little intense, if not painful, so there weren’t many takers. The cold mountain water and the roar of the falls was enough for most of us. Back in the buses, it was then just a short trip further to reach the Pounding Mill overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of our favorite stopping spots up there. It’s 4700 feet up (Rockbrook’s elevation is about 2350 ft) and provides a grand view of Looking Glass Rock below, a popular rock climbing destination.  By the time we arrived it was getting near dinner time and there was a stop at Dolly’s in the plan as well, so today we came just for the view and a quick group picture.  It’s always nice to get a little altitude!