Since the start of summer, 2013, over 1700 Rockmont campers have returned home. I imagine that they have many stories to share, songs to sing, and jokes to tell – many of which were hilarious at camp, but in the re-telling may not have been as funny for those who were not at camp. I imagine, too, that some of the storytelling that takes place at home ends with a shrug of the camper’s shoulders and the exclamation, “You just had to be there!” Well, one really does have to be here, in the moment, to understand camp life. Still, I wish we could fully convey the joys and struggles experienced in those “you just had to be there” moments.
The same is true with the lessons of personal growth experienced by campers – it can be challenging to recount them to friends and family post-camp. I think this is because the lessons learned at camp occur at a pace that is impossible to remember or record. Plus, the camper typically does not realize in the moment that significant learning is taking place. Just like physical growth, it’s a live process that can be difficult to observe. Yet, we know that it is happening. Indeed, camp offers the kind of environment where seeds of growth of many kinds – social, emotional, spiritual, and moral – are planted. Sometimes the fruit of those seeds is manifested immediately, and other times, it is revealed over time.
For example, some parents share that they notice a two-week period of growth after camp. For two weeks, the returning camper makes his bed, helps set the table and more. Most of the parents who share this story with me seem pleased. They are pleased with a great summer experience and with a little bit of identifiable development in those weeks right after camp. I, too, am pleased – pleased that camp can promote this kind of behavior. My hope, though, is for more than two weeks of change. We, here at camp, are going for a “cultural shift” in behavior. That is, we want the camper’s growth to have lasting implications. What I know (from both the perspective of Camp Director and Parent) is that if a returning camper is not held to some continued discipline when he gets home, he usually returns to an easier path for himself, just as many of us would naturally do. We call this “returning to business as usual.” It’s like the old adage, “two steps forward and one step back.”
I’ve come to believe that a key component to sustaining a camper’s growth lies with the parents. In other words, there is a strong connection between the parents’ growth and the child’s growth. Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed outlines seven character traits that he says are key to success:
Grit, Curiosity, Self-control, Social intelligence, Zest, Optimism, Gratitude
I agree with this list but would suggest the title could be expanded to How People Succeed. As parents, we must set the example for our children as we seek to grow ourselves. Pick one the above traits and ask yourself the question, “How am I growing today?”