At the end of last year, a helicopter crashed in Kauai. We listened to the news and were saddened by the news. As the story emerged, we learned that two of the victims were from Madison, where we live. The mom’s name was Amy, and she had a 13 year old who did gymnastics at the same place our daughter did. We did not know them personally, but we have friends who did, and their loss was felt across the Madison community. This national news story suddenly felt very personal. And last week, the startling loss of Kobe Bryant, his 13 year old daughter, and 7 others in another helicopter crash. All of it makes me want to hold our 13 year old closer and never let him out of my sight.
When the Sandy Hook shooting happened in 2012, and all of those precious first graders were lost, our 13 year old was a first grader himself. I cried most mornings for weeks, sending him off to school. And I think of those kids often, as I watch him grow up, knowing that they, too, should have been starting high school this fall. We are reminded time and again that life is fragile…that we shouldn’t take any moment for granted…that we should carpe the heck out of that diem and leave nothing unsaid to the ones we love. But that can be an exhausting way to live. Every time those news stories hit home, I find myself once again struggling to regain balance.
Balance between preparing our kids for what they may face in the world, and not creating anxiety that will keep them up at night. Balance between protecting them from all the scary things out there, and not becoming a helicopter parent who doesn’t let them live their own life. Balance between vigilance about what is going on in their lives, and not becoming consumed with worry 24 hours a day. Worrying is in my DNA, and the scenarios I can create in my head are quite impressive. The struggle for balance is real, and there are many days when I definitely feel like I am failing. When they were little, most of the decisions were ours, and balance didn’t feel so unattainable. I know it will only get harder as they grow up, become independent, and make more and more decisions for themselves.
Life definitely often feels like one big balancing act. As parents, we balance time with our kids, time with our spouse, time for work, and time for ourselves. We balance our knowledge of what it means to lead a healthy lifestyle with our picky eaters, our lack of time for exercise, and our own sweet tooth. We balance the certainty of what the right decision is with our children’s need to be independent and make their own decisions.
But we are not the only ones seeking balance. Kids are struggling to find balance as well. They want to be the best in their sport, but they don’t want to dedicate hours each day to practicing. They want to be loved and accepted by their peers, but they try to also be true to their authentic self. They want to be independent and grown up, but they also still need time with their parents. They want desperately to feel connected to people, but it often feels safer to just bury their head in their phone. They balance school and sports and friends and peer pressure, among a hundred other things.
That’s why camp is such a gift. Finding balance is not such a struggle. Kids feel like they can be themselves, and the pressures found at home with school and friends and sports just melt away during the time they are at camp. Their biggest struggle for balance becomes standing on a paddle board, taking a big hill on a mountain bike, and deciding whether or not to take that nap during rest hour. Camp lets kids be kids. Meanwhile, we adults will just be over here seeking balance…worrying a little too much, hugging our kids just a little too tightly, and maybe just having chocolate cake for breakfast.