Over the weekend I went to my summer camp’s open house. I gave tours and answered questions to parent’s and campers who were coming to camp for the first time this upcoming summer, or who were thinking about coming and wanted to check it out.
I was there for a total of seven hours, two hours after all of the families left. It was chilly and raining, and I walked families up at down hills for a total of five miles. It was one of the best weekends I had in a long time.
This summer will be my fourth summer at the Girl Scout resident camp I’ve fallen in love with. At the open house I got to meet with nervous and excited parents and campers and answer all of their questions and convince them that they made the right decision and that their daughters are going to have the best imaginable time with us at camp.
I was speaking with one mom who I could tell was very nervous about sending her daughter to camp. Her daughter was eleven and she was very shy, but when I was talking to her I could tell she was excited. Her mom asked me very specific and technical questions, and I tried to answer with a lot of details and examples as I could.
At one point I said, “I think I’m pretty shy,” and the mom interrupted me by laughing and said, “I don’t think so!”
I get that a lot, especially at camp. I laughed back and replied, “Well, this is my job. I can’t really be shy. It’s my job to be friendly and outgoing. But sometimes it’s hard for me.”
I love having shy campers in my group because to me, those are the kids who really need camp the most. Those are the kids who are going to benefit from being in a scary situation with brand new people and experiences they’ve never tried before. A little bit later I explained to the mother what happens when a girl doesn’t want to do an activity, like swimming in the lake.
“One of the great things about camp,” I told her, as her daughter and her dad walked away towards their car, “is that it’s a really encouraging environment, and we use the term ‘safe risks’ a lot. We encourage girls to take risks they normally wouldn’t, but we make sure they do that safely.”
I told her a story about a camper I had my very first summer who was so freaked out by the lake she refused to go in. During swim lessons and free summer, we encouraged the girl to go into the water up into she was comfortable. The first day, it was just dipping her toes in before going back to sit on the sand. But by the end of the week she was wading in up to her waist, and that was beautiful.
“Camp is a great place to go just outside your comfort zone,” I told the mom, while her daughter was walking towards, probably ready to head home after over an hour tour. “We encourage everyone, including staff (which is probably why I don’t come across as shy!) to go just beyond your comfort zone to the point right before you get scared or anxious because that’s where the most change happens.”
The mom still walked away a little nervous, (which is completely understandable sending your kid away for two weeks for the first time) but she thanked me and I was glad to be able to help and to draw from my own personal experiences.
Camp has been one of the most life changing experiences and I have learned so much about myself and my awareness of how my mentality and emotions coexist with each other. I’m so grateful to be able to have the same type of growing experience every summer while also allowing girls to do the same.