Last summer, we sent our oldest to sleepaway camp for the first time. I wrote her a letter and shared my thoughts and love for camp. She had the best time, telling me to go home when I showed up to pick her up because she didn't want to leave. I was only the tiniest bit offended. She gained confidence, built friendships, and claimed independence.
But tomorrow... tomorrow, I send another kid to camp for the first time. He's 7 years old, my outside of the box kid. He does things his own way and on his own terms. He's a brilliant thinker and builder. He has a burning passion for understanding the world around him. He feels and thinks things intensely. All too often, the world doesn't quite know what to do with him and he doesn't know what to do with the world. I'm both a little terrified and so excited for him.
He needs camp. Camp is a place where you don't need to fit into any box. Everyone gets to show up as they are, leaving anyone else's expectations or ideas about them at home. Everyone deeply matters. At camp there's both amazing freedom and significant responsibility. You are part of an intentional community, living closely with people you've probably never met before. Radical empathy, conflict resolution, and collaborative problem solving lay the groundwork to a successful week. After that, everything else is space for creativity, big ideas, messy games, ridiculous fun, and the immense growth that happens without kids even realizing.
He's not saying much about the whole thing, but he's definitely excited and anxious. He doesn't like to think too hard about things ahead of time. He doesn't like waiting or anticipation. As much as he talks nonstop, he still keeps a lot of stuff to himself. Meanwhile, this anxious mama just wants to hear what he's thinking, what he's worrying about and talk him through whatever I can. But this is his week and his experience. I get to hold my breath and keep quiet.
I hope he feels safe and loved. I hope he senses the possibility and relaxes into it. I hope he tries new things. I hope he gets space and time to make things, his biggest love. I hope he asks for help, shares his ideas, and makes new friends. I hope he sleeps well at night, with the paperbag puppets he's chosen to pack instead of a stuffed animal (told you, outside of the box, this kid). I hope he gets a glimpse of how amazing he is, and not just because his parents say it. I hope he makes mistakes and figures out how to make them right with the help of the community. I hope he sees some of his strength and ability. I hope he finds joy, silly joy, gleeful joy, laughter-filled joy... so much joy. I hope he loves every second without a toddler chasing him around or getting into his stuff. I hope the week is everything he wants it to be and more.
This looks like a random Lego creation, but it's not. E brought it to me one more morning a month ago and told me he made it with each item as a reminder. The bird reminds him that he can do anything. The horse reminds him that he is different. The one Lego person reminds him that he is giving. And the other Lego person with the flame reminds him that he is brave. He is brave and giving and different, and he can do anything.
I think I'll send it with him. With phenomenal staff, an incredible program, and these reminders... he's going to do just fine, and I can't wait to hear all about it.