Lifelong Memories

Good afternoon from sunny Camp BT! Though we’ve had some really warm temperatures the last few days (and lots of great beach parties), it’s been much more mild yesterday and today—sunny and mid-70s—and looks to stay that way for the rest of the session. Speaking of weather, we’ve had a few concerned phone calls from parents who heard that we had a tornado here at camp, and though we did have a big storm with high winds, rest assured that it was not a tornado.

It’s hard to believe that first session will be ending in a few short days; it has been a truly remarkable month filled with great activities, lots of laughter, and a ton of incredible memories.

During their time at camp, kids have a chance to establish independence from their parents, siblings, and home environment, though sometimes these changes can be subtle. Skills are things kids can demonstrate; they can show you how they can hit a ball farther, dance more gracefully, climb the climbing wall, or make a tie-dye shirt. However, newfound independence often shows itself in understated ways. When kids gain confidence in the camp environment by making new friends and achieving new goals, they usually become more outgoing and, in certain ways, less dependent on their parents. They become more interested in exploring new things on their own and often find this newfound strength pretty empowering.

Sometimes, your daughter’s newfound independence will be obvious. Perhaps she will show you how she keeps her elbows off the dinner table, or she will make her bed every morning (rules we follow here at camp). Discoveries like this amaze parents, especially those who have given up trying to get their child to perform chores spontaneously. Of course, such increased responsibility and politeness may not last all year. Kids are kids, and camp won’t change that (thank goodness!). However, camp does help kids take steps in the right direction. The responsibilities they’re given at camp cultivate an awareness of what needs to be done, without being told.

One of the nice things about overnight camp is that it gives parents and kids a break from one another–every family can use a change of pace now and then. In fact, time away from home is the most powerful force behind gaining independence. Parents tell us all the time that camp has made their children more mature and independent. Like these parents, we get a wonderful feeling when we witness children growing and gaining confidence. We see it every summer, and being part of that process of positive change is what motivates us to keep the tradition of summer camp alive.

I’ll be terribly sad to see our first session campers go home, but then it will be time to take one big breath and prepare to do it all over again next session. And of course I am looking forward to seeing many of our eight week campers’ families on visiting day. But before everyone packs and leaves, before the “Big Switch” as we like to call it, and before visiting weekend, there are some incredibly important traditions that will take place this week. These last few days of the session are always a strange blend of both happy and sad events, marking the end of a wonderful month together.

Now that we are coming to the end of the second two-week rotation of activities, the campers have acquired many new skills and will have the opportunity to show off what they have learned at one of our favorite end of session events: The Seven Lively Arts. On Friday, we’ll spend the afternoon watching the campers display what they have learned in the gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, knitting, water ski, water ballet, and diving shows. We’ll also get to watch the camp play, tour the arts and crafts gallery opening, and watch the movies that the videography classes have filmed and edited.

We have several evening programs that commemorate the end of yet another successful session, one of which is the always-emotional final council fire. The TM campers traditionally lead the final council fire, sharing their feelings and stories about their time at camp. It’s hard not to cry along with the TMers as they lament the end of their camping days. Special songs are sung to continue the end-of-session traditions that have been a part of camp since Birch Trail’s first summer 52 years ago. Though the final council fire is always a tender and sometimes downright melancholy event, there is something very comforting in the way we honor the passing of another session and all the special memories that we’ve created as a community.

Another, far less somber evening program that takes place the last night of first session is Tiki’s Last Laugh, which gets pretty crazy! We like to end the session with a fun evening program and this one overflows with laughter and silliness. For Tiki’s Last Laugh a panel of judges sits, draped in protective clothing, in front of the entire camp. Each cabin gets one minute to make the judges laugh. If one of the judges breaks down in even a split second of giggles, the cabin gets to pick from an assortment of prizes for that judge. The prizes include things like cracking an egg on a judges’ head, a ketchup and mustard facial, having a bucket of ranch dressing poured on their head, and other assorted messy prizes. If none of the judges laugh, the campers get to pick one of their counselors to “receive” the prize. Either way, someone is getting really messy!

I’ve sent out some information regarding the end of the session and we anticipate another smooth and breezy, though emotional, travel day on Saturday, but if you have any questions about your daughter’s departure from camp please don’t hesitate to give us a call. If your daughter is coming home at the end of this week, remember that returning from camp can be a big transition and quite a lot of culture shock. She might want to tell you every single detail of her time here, or she might be a little on the quiet side. Camp life is unique; there really isn’t anything quite like it and it can be hard for kids to express what that transition back to home life feels like. Rather than be alarmed on worried if your daughter seems dramatically more emotional than usual upon her return home, we encourage you to view her adjustment time as a testimony to the deep, enduring independence and maturity that she has gained at Birch Trail.

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