My son Mason turned two recently and all of the sudden he’s doing so many more “big boy” things. But the truth is, he’s still a baby. An infant really because, even though they toddle, the first three years of human life are still called “infancy.”
Sure, he’s talking and understanding more, his bodily coordination is growing by leaps and bounds, and he’s finding so many more things familiar to him.
But he still needs us, and will for a long, long time to come. And he’ll need the community of people we trust him with — family, babysitters, teachers, and yes, camps.
What a child inspires
There’s one thing that every parent learns and that is just how trusting every baby is. Being completely dependent on their environment to provide for them in a comforting and comfortable way, a baby simply waits, eyes wide open, for his or her needs to be met.
And it takes a long, long time before any child realizes intellectually the capacity they have for meeting their own needs.
Sure, they’ll master tasks like feeding and dressing themselves. But they do so with food that magically appears on the plate and clothes that magically appear in the closet. They might see family members and others cook and clean, or shop and launder. And they might imitate these tasks in play or in earnestly trying to help. But the long arc to maturity is one in which they still look to us innocently, trustingly, to provide, to care, to be kind, not even knowing that they are doing so.
They say that’s why God made kids so cute! Because we continue to love, nourish and provide for them amidst colic, terrible 2s, temper tantrums, kindergarten selfishness, and teen-age angst.
They also say that loving your own child is the doorway to loving all children. Seeing the vulnerability, trust, and innocence of your own offspring allows you to seamlessly transfer that understanding to all kids.
Yes, we gain an understanding of this throughout our lives, as older children take care of younger, and teens become young adults and take on more responsibility.
But I think being a parent really allows us to put it into words, to mature into not only understanding this instinctually — emotionally — but understanding it intellectually, and therefore being able to make a case for why this knowledge is so important to the way we approach children in educational settings like school, church groups, sports teams, clubs, and camps.
Trust across the board
At Camp Alleghany we know that it’s the parents who decide to trust us with their children. And that relationship is critical to all that we do. Providing a transparent process, highly trained and professional staff and administration, clear communication, excellent facilities, long-earned reputation, and compelling and varied programs is what helps parents choose a setting like ours for their child.
But the trust of the child is equally important, and much more critical when you get right down to it. The campers are the ones will look to us, eyes wide open, for something deeper than the activities and fun, for something that they don’t even know they need — safety. Not just physical safety in a canoe or on the shooting range, though these things are paramount to running a professional camp environment.
It’s the safety to be themselves and still be loved and nourished and cared for. The safety to have a melt down or be afraid or homesick and know that they’re not alone. It’s the safety to beam over an accomplishment and feel the warmth radiated back to her by an equally proud counselor. It’s the safety to rest into an unspoken but palpable knowledge that the adults in the space are honorable, admirable, and worthy of emulation, the very qualities children come to rely on in their parents and family.
We take great pride in not only valuing this perspective, but living it out and training everyone from our junior counselors to our top staff positions in this deeply important relationship to the kids we are privileged to have in our care. They’re all still so innocent, and we uphold the good in the world for them.
It’s our honor to do so.
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls