Final Night Brings Tears, Laughter, Reminiscing…

A Camper Holds a Wish Boat candle on the last night of camp.

Adolescence for girls is a roller coaster…and camp is an anchor. It’s not the only anchor, but it’s a powerful one in the tempest of teen years. It struck me on Father’s Day how important it is for dads to keep their head in the game when raising daughters…dads are key. You should be that guy, at least in your daughter’s eyes,  that makes all the rest of us pale by comparison. Moms are the rock, and faith and a church family are the foundation. Close friends who share your values and who can be your surrogate when you become “uncool” are great too if you have them. It’s so much easier to raise someone else’s daughter than to raise your own!

I remember telling a new acquaintance, “fasten your seatbelt,” when he told me he had a thirteen year-old daughter. It was just after Gardner, our own, had emerged from the “dark years.” When I say, “stay in the game,” it’s an admission that I don’t have all the answers, though I do know that it is important to stay engaged. Listen. Avoid “picking up the rope.” (a reference to getting baited into a game of verbal tug of war). Resist the urge to fix everything.

I want this last post to be a word of encouragement. I have “seen the light,” and it is good news my friends. This has been an amazing session with GREAT girls who understand that camp brings out the very best version of themselves. They express gratitude…at least to each other, and to us…and hopefully will to you as well. Let me be the model here. Thank you for entrusting your “most prized” to us. It is a privilege we do not take lightly. We know that in many cases there are sacrifices to make camp happen, and we trust that you will find camp among the best gifts you have ever given your girls.

Camp is not just about this beautiful “heavenly world” with which we have been entrusted as stewards for this next generation. It’s not just about the fun, or the skill building, or the practice in independence…although those things are important. We end final campfire with “wishes.” A girl from each hill is chosen to deliver a wish to the entire camp family on behalf of her peers. I am always amazed at the wisdom that flows from the hearts of those from tender years on Hillbrook…through Heigh Ho, Pineview, CITs, JCs, all the way up to our counselors.

Tonight and always, to a girl, came the reminder that love pervades. In our camp world…devoid of constant comparison moment to moment via Instagram or other mindless social media where everyone is having the best day ever!, relationships become real, and they happen in real time.

I’ve learned to listen carefully to this final punctuation to our summer. These wishes embody the spirit that we try to foster here in a real world application. Girls spoke of love. Unconditional. Of mentors who inspire. Of relationships that have spanned half of their lives. Of camp buddies. Of lifelong friends. So it’s not unusual that there are tears. Like most things, some girls feel deeply. From where I sit, these are tears of joy. Tears that will sustain and will be accompanied by memories that will remind each of the discovery of her “best version.”

Of course, thumbs that have lost their muscle memory will find their way back to the virtual keyboard. That Instagram friend will seem like she is “so together,” and that will probably cause some angst by comparison. But hopefully, distraction will set in and she will be transported back to a place where life is simpler…where relationships are anything but virtual. Where…for four weeks…or two weeks, we all learned, and loved, and laughed together…at our dear Camp Illahee.