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Magical Thinking

I spoke with a parent recently who was looking for a camp to send her two children to this summer. It was her sincere hope that she could send her children to a camp that operated just as it would pre-COVID19. Her children could take no more of the protocols, she assured me. I suggested to her that this might be a difficult proposition, since most quality camps that I know are not even considering returning to pre-pandemic modes of operation. Camps are out there that operate this way, I told her, and they are the ones that often end up on the front page of papers, or in your news feed.

I get it, what she wants for her children, and I want it, too. We all long for a sense of normalcy or what we considered normal prior to 2020. I described how we were able to operate in 2021 and how we were able to approach a sense of normal, by taking a few simple precautions and focusing on the health of the community, not just any one individual. There is no doubt that the pandemic and ensuing disruptions are having broad negative impacts on children from learning loss to social and emotional concerns. But, as a mentor and veteran teacher reminded me the other day, we don’t need to remind kids of this anymore than is absolutely necessary. They know it has affected them!

Instead, if we remind kids that they are resilient and give them reason to see a way forward – to look to the other side of this thing- while making the most of the present reality and present opportunities, we are providing a real service. By preserving childhood and paying attention to developmental needs- socialization, play, connection, agency and empathy, camp, and Camp Mishawaka, is uniquely positioned to give kids what they need, and at the moment they need it most. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to go back to a time when my scientific vocabulary was smaller, and my command of the Greek alphabet was relegated to my limited knowledge of college organizations, not the latest variant. Alas, we can’t just yet. What we can do- and by this I mean all of us, parents, camp administrators, and campers, keep playing, keep working, keep laughing and growing. We can approach normal and still protect those around us. We can serve ourselves and our own developmental, professional, and parental needs while still tending to those who are the most vulnerable and impressionable among us.

None of us has the power to influence the course of events by using mysterious or superhuman powers- “perform magic”, as Webster’s defines it. (If you do, please give me a call!) What we do have is the human ability to take care of one another and ourselves at the same time. In running Camp last summer, we were reminded of this on a daily basis, and with the knowledge that when we emerge from this, we will be stronger for having done so. Kids deserve this opportunity, example, and lesson. I don’t think anyone thinks it will be easy, but we believe it’s worthwhile, indeed, absolutely necessary.

If I doubted this at all, it was erased just last evening when we received this email from a 2021 parent:

I owe you a long overdue kudos and thank you, and I’m sorry it’s so tardy. You heard from me when I had concerns about covid protocols but I neglected to tell you how 1000% completely wonderful camp was last year for our son. I should have known that you guys MORE THAN ANY would know what kids were most in need of during the craziness, and you’d find the perfect way to make it happen so they didn’t feel like there were obstacles or limitations. And they got to just be kids for a while. THANK YOU!! I know we can’t begin to know all the obstacles and challenges you all tackled to make it happen!

2021 Camper Parent

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