Happy Fourth of July from the shores of Long Lake!
Independence Day has always held great meaning for me here at camp. I am filled with images of marching in the Naples parade on what always seemed like the hottest day of the summer. I have vivid memories of our Warrior campers marching through town, singing their hearts out to patriotic songs, and dancing the “bump and grind” as our Takajo band led the way in a big flatbed truck. Throngs of people from Naples and surrounding communities lined Main Street, cheering for us every step of the way.
The town of Naples is quiet today. There is no parade and the annual fireworks display has been postponed indefinitely. It is another sad reminder of the times we are living in.
I have rarely felt such tremendous stress as I did leading up to the decision to postpone the 2020 camp season. Normally I feel I’m reasonably good at managing stress and keeping life in perspective, but the past three months created an extraordinary level of uncertainty and anxiety unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. As a parent, my instinct was to shield my children and, initially, I tried to carry on like everything was normal and under control. I’m sure most of you felt that same instinct. However, I soon realized that my children were also dealing with uncertainty and, whether I was conscious of it or not, they were watching me to see how I was managing this unprecedented adversity. I changed gears and decided to embrace this as a teachable moment. Rather than shield my children, I included them. I let them know I was struggling with an enormous decision and that I valued their input. I also assured them, and myself, that ultimately I would make the right decision.
On occasion during the summer, I will write about a child’s development and the importance of communicating with him in an age-appropriate way. I firmly believe we should share information with our children honestly and forthrightly and present it in a way that takes into account his or her emotional capability. We never want to frighten our children when something unexpected happens in our lives, but I do believe that, regardless of age, there is invariably an opportunity for a teachable moment. Our children mirror our behavior. They watch us intently and, by osmosis, absorb how we react and respond to situations. This has a profound impact on shaping their ability to handle both success and failure as they experience the ups and downs of life.
My children are in their teens, on the cusp of leaving home for college all too soon. I knew they were old enough to understand this real-life dilemma and I knew they were capable of seeing me at my most vulnerable. Family dinners took on a whole new meaning. Rather than rushing through the meal and abruptly leaving the table to finish homework or reconnect with friends, my children sat patiently and participated in meaningful discussions about the pandemic and the impact it could play not only on our lives, but on the lives of all our camp families. We discussed everything from the health and safety of our campers, to the well-being of potentially vulnerable members of our staff, to the financial implications that would accompany not opening this summer. I have no doubt that sharing this extraordinary experience with my children will serve them well as they become more and more independent and face challenging decisions of their own.
This summer, I’ve pledged to let go of the things I can’t control and embrace an incredible opportunity to be together as a family with Joan and my children at my favorite place on Earth. I hope you are able to find similar consolation in these uncertain times, and that you are able to spend quality time with your own family in the weeks ahead. These opportunities are more and more fleeting in today’s face-paced world and I suspect, like me, you will never again take them for granted.