The village that raises my children

sunset at neekaunis - photo by ravipjoshi

Family Camp 2013 at Camp NeeKauNis:


Where there was ALWAYS sand in my bed.

Where we scored the luxury of a cabin with a bathroom (thanks for being a baby, Baby AB!).

Where Sean was able to be with us for four happy days.

Where we ate three home-cooked meals a day – none of which was prepared by me!

Where I noticed that after all those years as a cook, followed by a few as a camper, my urge to use the staff side of the kitchen is finally waning.

Where almost all the days were bright sunshiny blue-and-green, perfect Camp weather.

Where I often didn’t know the location of my four-year-old son, and that was FINE. (He would be playing in the sandbox or at the “park”, making forts in the Meeting Centre, colouring in Nelson-Hall, doing crafts at kids’ program – usually with a whole troupe of other kids.) Sometimes, he even ate at tables with neither parent present. Plus: first bunk bed experience. TOP BUNK, BABY.

That stroller covered a lot of ground in a week.

Where we warned E that there would be no iPad/screen time of any kind at Camp – and he never even asked for it. Not once.

Where being outside, usually in the dappled shade (my favourite kind), was, as always, the default. Fresh air all the time. It does a body good.

Where I realized that I like yoga after all – with the right teacher.

Where the conversation is reliably satisfying.

Where it’s a good idea to contrive to synchronize the kids’ bedtime with that period of evening where the mosquitoes are most relentless.

Where I got to be ukulele coach (!) and strum along with the sweetest musical family (not my own) to present “Blowin’ in the Wind” for Talent Night.

Where Baby AB charmed the sandals off most of the Camp community, with no apparent effort on her part.

Buffet lunch outside – Baby AB approves.

Where young girls (and some older ones, and some boys too) made it their goal to entertain her.

Where I could give her to almost anyone, and they would treat each other like family. (Amazing, the number of things I was able to do kid-free.)

Where I could mention Sebastian, especially to those who were there two years ago, and not feel that I’m being offensively sad. Because the empathy is unconditional.

Where it dawned on me that Family Camp is the place I feel most safe, for myself and for my family.

Let me expand on that.

It’s partly the way the kids stick together, and the older ones take really good care of the younger ones. There are amazing role models all over the place. There are no roads and no strangers at Camp, and the beach is separate. I never worried about E.

It’s partly the fact that we are all there for the same reason: to be together. Even if we don’t know each other when we arrive, we consciously form a community. One of the moms, when Camp ended, posted this article about community-style parenting; it made me so grateful that we have a place where, once a year, our family can experience that.

And I’ve realized that the reason this works is trust. Magically, this is a zone of unpretentious, non-judgmental parenting. We all know we are just people who love our kids (and each other’s kids) and are doing our best. If my child is having a meltdown, everybody gets it. If my child is being adorable, we all get that too. All of our kids are awesome, as well as being occasional (or frequent, depending on the day) pains in the derrière. I admire and learn from the parenting I see, knowing it’s impossible for any family to sail smoothly all the time. I don’t feel judged by the other moms (and rare dads), even when I’m judging myself – like when my kid eats nothing but bread for dinner (MOTL).

My hope is that our kids are inheriting this attitude of acceptance, which will set the tone for Junior Camp and Intermediate Camp when they’re bigger, and that Camp becomes the place where they learn to be their best, realest selves. That’s what it has always been for me.

What a wonderful week. (I miss you all, Family Campers!)



7 thoughts on “The village that raises my children

  1. Mama says:

    Mmm. I know what you mean. I felt that way about Camp with my liddoe kids, too. Like when Emily, all of 2 1/2 at her first Family Camp, performed all of about five seconds of the dance she had practiced with me at the piano before being overcome with stage fright (with which the audience deeply sympathized), or the troop of ten-year-old girls helped Bethie learn to walk (at just under a year) on the stony, uneven slope just outside Nelson-Hall, or Diana and Helen choreographed and danced new dances for Talent Night, or Ben developed the goal of becoming a lifeguard because the NeeKauNis lifeguards were SO COOL, and so many other wonderful experiences. Even when I’m directing my heart out it energizes me.

  2. Helen says:

    *sniff* I missed Family Camp this year…but you describe it just as I remember it. Hopefully my future summers allow for Camptime!

  3. Beth says:

    My favourite memory from camping with children: I had to get up and leave the cabin early because I was cook. I would lay out clothes for Arwen (7) and Amanda (3) before heading over to the kitchen. Arwen was to help her sister dress when they heard the gong and then come to the kitchen. Arwen went off to the kybo leaving Amanda to her own devices for a bit. Later that morning, the older Friend who shared the cabin with us described how charmed she was when Amanda wandered into the shared hallway and called: “Friend, Friend, could you help me with my buttons?” And of course, she got help with her buttons. Camp was the one place I wasn’t afraid to leave my kids sleeping in their beds and head over to the kitchen to work. There were always others around to help and oversee.

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