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Open Letters: Letter 4

08.04.20

Dear Newest Camp Counselor,

BREATHE!!! It’s okay and even normal for you to be nervous right now. Just take a quick moment to take a deep, cleansing breath. Why? Because this is a simple tool to help calm you and refocus you as you deal with things outside of your control. You will need this tool, or to teach this tool to campers, numerous times over this summer session. It will serve you well. Trust me. Take it from a Mom of 2 overachievers!

I also acknowledge for many of you that this will be your first actual job. Congratulations! You could be in a worse place. No worries! This is likely the most forgiving learning environment when dealing with kids. These campers will look up to you, regardless of your mistakes. Mostly. And definitely if you have dirt on your face! 

Trust me! The first time I dropped my daughter, Cheyenne, off for summer camp I thought I was going to die. I had to put away my fears, and hide the Type-A, overwhelmingly hypervigilant, momma bear protective side of me. Outwardly at least. Inside I was a hot mess! On the outside, I had to smile and act all carefree, happy, and put on my this-is-gonna-be-great face. Mind you, this is one of my most precious gifts that I am entrusting to you for a day, a week, or even the whole summer!!

All I ask, is please don’t break her. The easiest part of that is the physical. I expect her to play hard, challenge her, and in doing so, end up with bruises, scrapes and the stories to go along with those minor physical abrasions. The mental and emotional breaking is harder to see. No matter how much the girl’s behavior annoys you (there will be some, and other days it will be all of them), you have to put on that happy face and be considerate and caring. You have to be responsible for what you say and do, because the wrong tone, the wrong choice of words will stick with that little girl for a very long time. Just take that deep cleansing breath I told you about at the beginning. Count to 10 if you have to. Then address her. Be gentle. Be kind. And above all else, treat them like you would prefer to be treated, especially when you have to address less than ideal behavior. Lift up her spirit and show her how to be strong, even in the face of adversity.

Above all else- have fun! Sing that silly song with the funny motions. Hike in the mud and don’t worry about getting dirty. Handle the eight-legged freak of epic size without freaking out. Teach them the wonders in nature that they may not already know about. They will mimic what you do and how you do it. They will look up to you- especially if you have dirt on your face! The more fun you have, the more they will like you. The more fun stories you can tell during that storm, the less afraid they will be of the dark and tumultuous weather. But even more importantly…

Is being the example of the grace and ease with which you pick yourself up, reassess and proceed when something doesn’t work out like you perfectly planned? That is the ultimate take away that will teach them the most successful tool to use in real life. That it is okay to fail. It is okay to not get it perfect. It is okay to have to try again. It is acceptable to have to do it more than once. But it is not okay to stop trying.

SOOOOOOO, on those tough days, smile! Take that deep breath. Leave the dirt on your face. Put one hiking boot clad foot in front of the other, and go make a ton of memories. Memories for you and for my child. Memories for all of the children entrusted to you. You may just find a bigger piece of yourself out there when you weren’t even looking.

Wishes for Many Stories to Tell,

Your future campers mom,

P.S. If you are truly one of the lucky ones, and you really make an impression, those role model friendships will extend beyond your days at camp and make you friends around the world. That may be the best gift yet!