But What About the Children?

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That question, “What about the Children?”, has been on the front of our minds as we build decision trees and create plans for how we can safely operate Camp this summer. Not that this hasn’t always been first and foremost in our planning, but in this new reality it seems to take on even more importance. Just this year, I started using the phrase “preserving childhood” to describe what we do at Camp Mishawaka- namely, protecting the age of wonder, innocence, exploration, and discovery for children on their way to adulthood. Now, as parents, educators, and mentors who have dedicated our life’s work to helping children navigate this transition- the delicate balance of protecting our children and giving them opportunities to practice making adult decisions, has become even more delicate, and even more important.

It’s not so easily done these days. I can only imagine working at home and studying at home has added untold new complications and upended any timetable we may have had for preserving our own kids’ childhood. The idea of leaving your work at the office, or worries, has left the building and come to roost right on your Zoom screen- often in full display in the living room, or other makeshift office space. I had great respect for my father, who clearly never shared his deepest worries with us- even as he guided our local Savings and Loan through the crisis of the 1980’s. Now, with our own children on the cusp of adulthood, the conversation in our home often centers on our collective worries but when it just gets to be too much, either to process or comprehend, we circle back to these years of childhood. Sharing memories, telling stories, looking at pictures and often finding new humor, or perspective on something that seemed trivial at the time.

To be honest, it was maybe never particularly easy to guide children through this transition to adulthood. Little pitchers have had big ears for a long time. Children have a keen awareness to many of the subtleties of the way adults communicate. On the other side of this, the impressions we leave, the stories that get told and the way our children deal with adversity and challenges in their own adult life will be formed during this time. I am not sure I have any prescriptions of how that should look, and surely every family will need to strike its own balance. But it does seem worth re-affirming that what we do now, as parents, educators and “big leaders of small minds” will have a lasting impact for generations to come.

Sometime ago I came across a poem by Scottish poet, Robin Robertson, that seems capture this dance we make as parents as perfectly as anyone could.

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Be well and enjoy the dance we make for ourselves and our children.

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