Father's Day at Camp Mishawaka

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For the last 33 years I have spent Father’s Day in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, the last 25 of them as a father. That’s the day Camp Mishawaka has started its first session for as long as I can remember. (Our family celebrates Parent’s Day on Mother’s Day!) Most often the day begins with a message from home, my kids, my siblings, and well-wishing campers and staff. This year our two children got to wish me well in person as I had recruited them to help with the luggage detail.

It may seem a bit insensitive to separate kids from their fathers, or parents, grandparents or guardians on a day dedicated to the celebration of the bond between a parent and a child, but I’ve come to believe that it is, in fact, a fitting tribute. Part of being a parent has a sort of “planned obsolesce” built into it. If we do our jobs our children will no longer need us to provide for them in the manner we first did. They grow, develop, and differentiate into fully formed adults. Yet, as any parent of a certain age will tell, being a parent is a life-long process.

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For many, this summer at Camp marks the first time a child has been away from home for an extended period of time. For veteran campers, it signifies a return to a place where they reconnect with old friends and pursue new adventures. They find their best self waiting for them when they step off the bus.

Whether this is your child’s first time at Camp Mishawka or their eighth, the good-bye can be emotional. I spoke with parents yesterday, in person and on the phone, and I could hear it in their voice. The hope that Camp is magical and that their child has a wonderful experience. I also heard a tinge of anxiety, even sadness, as they send their kids off to Camp. Even now, as the parent of two nearly grown (but not yet flown) children, I still find it hard to say goodbye as they head back to school or return home. As corny as it may sound, this all makes the next “hello” all the more meaningful.

I remember the time, as a young director, when a parent asked me how parents can make the leap of faith to send their children to Camp. I didn’t have the words at the time, but I wish I had told them it’s not a leap of faith, but an act of love.

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