Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Letter From Home: Thoughts on Sleepaway Camp

I don't know how it happened, but on Sunday I'm sending my oldest child off to sleepaway camp for the first time. Sleepaway camp! How is that possible? 
A little background. I went to camp from the time I was 6. I loved camp with every ounce of my being. It remains one of the most sacred places on the planet for me, a place where I found my confidence, my passion, my spirituality, and my closest friends. I met my husband working at camp. We got married at camp. I've worked at many types of camps in different parts of the country. I have a Masters degree in, you guessed it, CAMP. My kids have been at camp with me consistently since before they were born as I volunteered, served on the Board of Directors, attended family camps, and even spent a year starting up a new satellite Day Camp program.
But now... my child is going to camp. As a camper. I won't be there. Heck, she's going to a brand new program although at least at a camp where I worked 10 years ago and directed by someone with whom I worked. But still... suddenly this professional camp mama is on the other end of the registration table. To be honest, I'm so darn excited for her, it hasn't really sunk in that she's going to be gone for an entire week.

As I do laundry, make checklists, write letters to mail each day making sure the first gets there on Monday (yep, I'm being *that* mom), and help pack her things... I wrote her this letter.
Dear Daughter,

I don't know where the time has gone, but you're an amazing human. I get to see just how amazing more and more every day. I'm so proud of you... who you are... how you love... the way you engage the world. I'm going to miss you like crazy this week, but I'm so proud of you for going to camp. I'm so proud of the ways you've grown, matured, and found yourself in the past year. Last year, you weren't ready. You told me. We listened. This year, you knew you were ready. We can all see you're ready.

I know you're equal parts excited and nervous. I know it's hard to do new things, but we can do hard things. I know you know that. Some of the hardest things are the best things. 

Camp is one of my most favorite places on the planet, and I know you're going to love it, too. You already do. How could you not? You've been a "camp kid" since you were in my belly. Camp is so many of the things you already love. Awesome people. Nature. Singing, games, swimming, art, hiking and all kinds of goofy fun. Thinking outside the box. Coloring outside the lines. Not being afraid to be yourself.

This week is for you. It's all yours, and you deserve it. For all the times you watch the baby or convince E to help you clean up. For the times you cook everyone's eggs for breakfast and for the times you wait for what seems like forever for your turn. This week is completely yours. There's no little brothers. There's no to-do lists. There's no schoolwork calling your name.  It's all you, kid. Live it up.

Be you. Be brave. Laugh hard. Speak up. Be seen. Don't hesitate to do something just because you might not do it at home. Don't do anything just because everyone else is doing it. Ask questions. Tell people what you want and need. Share your brilliant ideas. There are no limits. Make your voice heard. 

There are amazing people at camp who cannot wait to get to know you, and their entire job is to keep you safe and make this the best week possible. Let them help you. Forget where to put your dishes in the dining hall? Ask them. Need help putting your hair into a pony tail? Ask them. Want to know if you can hike/swim/build a rocketship? Ask them. Even if it's the middle of the night and you're scared because you had a bad dream or you have to go the bathroom. Ask. Whatever it is, just ask. They want you to ask, and they want to help. That's why they work at camp. Don't go it alone when you don't have to. You're never alone at camp.

You can be a helper, too. This is your community for the week. You work together. Look for the kids who need a friend, a hug, or a laugh. Listen to your gut. It knows what to do. Your huge heart will lead the way. Make the best decisions you can, know you're going to make mistakes, and remember always that it all comes back to love and grace. 

It's okay to miss home. It's even okay to not miss home. It's all part of the experience. All the feelings are okay, and all the feelings will pass. Just know that we are here, loving you just as much as ever, missing you, and counting the days until we can hear what an amazing week you had.
Love you more than words can say,

Thursday, June 4, 2015

God Doesn't Make Mistakes


Many nights, I join my daughter in her top bunk bed for a chat. It's her time to unwind from the day and prep for tomorrow. Ask her questions, share her fears, tell her stories. When her anxiety was at its most intense, it was our nightly ritual of talking her off the proverbial ledge so she could sleep. Now, it's much less desperate, but it is our time to connect, her time to air her concerns and let go of her worries.

One night in the midst of her transitioning to Rebekah, she was feeling a bit down. She's very intuitive and empathetic, and one of her biggest stresses during her transition was feeling guilty for the love and support she received. She felt bad that people, in her words, had to give her gifts or go out of her way to show love. We assured her that it was people's way of showing their support and no one had to do anything. They wanted to because they loved her and were inspired by her authenticity and courage.

I told her she was born to change the world. She laughed and said "it's still a cruel and terrible place" (which her dad was a little proud of, cynical jerk). But, I explained that just by being her, proudly and bravely, she's teaching others to be themselves and that they were made perfectly. I told her God made her perfectly. She shook her head quietly. "No... God made me a boy."

It knocked the breath right out of me. My beautiful child was carrying the weight of thinking God made her wrong on her very small shoulders. My child thought that being who she was wasn't what God intended her to be.

"Oh no, honey, but who are you inside?" 

Without hesitation, she responded, "I'm a beautiful girl named Rebekah". 

That's right she is. And God knows that. God knew that. God made her that way. God knows her inside and out and made her to be exactly who she is. God made her for great things. God knows she's going to change the world. That's what I told her. 

Wide-eyed and hopeful she looked at me, "Really? God made me this way?" Yes, God did. God made all of her and knows all of her. 

Later as I went to climb down from her bed, she reached out for one last hug. Squeezing tight, she said, "thanks mama, thanks for telling me about the God thing. That helps". 

I don't have all the answers about why and how people are born transgender, though the research about the brain and genetics is all very young and very interesting. I don't have all the answers as to what it will all mean for my daughter's future. But I do know this. God does not love her in spite of her gender identity. God did not give her this as something to trip her up or trick her into sinful behavior. God did not put her in the wrong body, or give her the the wrong heart or brain for her body. This is who she has always been, who God created her to be, and like I've heard from so many others in the past few days, "God doesn't make mistakes."