Our kids went back to school this week. Ryder is in third grade and Rowan is starting kindergarten. Two years ago, if you had asked me what her first day of kindergarten would be like, I probably would have shuddered. Rowan has always been slow to warm up to people, balked at new experiences, and did not like change. She was my little introvert, and those first three years at camp, it would take weeks before she would even talk to any of the boys at camp. Our staff was incredible, and many of them would try to talk to her, but she always hid in fear. There were a few, like our beloved Jake Mandel, who managed to crack her tough exterior, but to most she was just that shy little girl who was Amy & Patrick’s daughter.
Then, two years ago, something changed. Little by little, she was more social, willing to try new things, and slowly became more independent. I watched it happen over the past two years, but this year was an explosion of self-confidence. She wanted to play with Ryder’s friends, she came to really look up to several campers over the course of the summer, including her buddy, Owen, above. She spent a lot of time the past two summers horseback riding and swimming, and she truly wanted to be part of whatever was happening at camp. Patrick and I found ourselves asking, “Who is this girl?”
So this fall, when we returned home, we were amazed at how easily she transitioned into kindergarten. She was excited, not scared, confident, not shy, and proud of herself to be going off to school with her older brother. She also informed us that she wanted to do gymnastics AND soccer this fall. Soccer? Soccer, where she is the only girl on the team, but it doesn’t phase her a bit. Soccer, because our nanny this summer is an avid soccer player and because she’s watched boys at camp play it as well. Whether or not she loves it and continues to play after this fall is not important. What amazes us as parents is that she wanted to TRY. If I hadn’t watched this transition myself, I never would have believed this was the same girl from 2 years ago.
I rarely talk about my kids on this blog, and I hesitate to do so, because I don’t want this blog to be about us. But I’m telling you this story because I firmly believe a lot of Rowan’s growth and transformation came from her summers at camp. She may be only 5, and she may be one of the only girls, but camp affects her too. I want you to know that, as a parent, I see it in our own children on a daily basis. Camp is a place where age doesn’t matter. Boys like Owen, Cooper, and Frankie became some of her favorite people in the world. But the most incredible thing to watch was how kind they were to her. Kind. They spoke to her like a person, not like an annoying little sister. They included her in games they played and made her laugh. She thought they were the coolest people ever. That’s what we teach at Deerhorn…that all people matter and are to be treated with kindness.
She has gained confidence from camp. It’s a place where kids are encouraged to try new things, even if they aren’t good at them. We support them and cheer them on, and being a first time water-skier is more important than being the best water-skier. She watches boys be part of a team, and she understands the importance of teamwork. (and even learns all the team cheers) Watching our kids grow at camp is like this tiny microcosm of what we work so hard to create at Deerhorn…it’s an experiment that shows me first hand that what we are doing WORKS.
I hope your kids have all had great back to school experiences. I hope they came home from camp more confident, more willing to try new things, and ready to tackle the school year head on. I hope you can see in them the difference a summer at Deerhorn will make.