Campers Live Alone?
Posted January 23rd, 2015
Sending a daughter away to overnight camp requires a leap of faith. Way, way back when I went to Brown Ledge, this was less true. My mother went to camp. Girls in our suburban community went to camp. A neighbor had gone to Brown Ledge and liked it. Decision made. As I remember, I had very little to do with the whole plan, also the norm in those days. But these are different times. We are so much more aware of risk, and though the world may not actually be any less safe now, it feels less safe. The good part of our increased awareness is that we parents tend to take it upon ourselves to do our homework so that we make informed decisions about our children. But the bad part is that we begin to see danger at every turn. Our anxiety can make us act as if our job is to eliminate all risk. While we may pay lip service to the fact that “we can’t put them in a bubble” we sometimes feel pressure to do just that. For parents, finding that balance of risk and benefit can be complicated.
Take the issue of Brown Ledge camper cabins, specifically the fact that girls live without counselors for most of the day. (In case you are new to BL, a junior counselor visits for an hour after lunch and a senior counselor visits for a minimum of a half hour before bedtime. Both are available for problem solving during the day if the need arises.) I doubt that my mother even knew that I would be living in a cabin without a counselor. (Reading the fine print in the booklet was not her forte!) But I also doubt that she would have had any reaction if anyone had told her. As I said earlier, it was a different time. Today’s parents sometimes struggle with the thought of their daughter living in a cabin without a full time counselor. “Is it safe? What happens if someone needs help in the night? What if the girls don’t get along? What if my daughter is picked on by one of the other girls?” These are good questions. Here’s how we answer them:
- The camper cabins are very close together and counselor cabins are interspersed amongst them. Counselors are often closer to campers than a parents’ bedroom is to their child’s bedroom in their own home. Sometimes parents imagine their daughter in an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods. That’s not us.
- We teach girls how to get help if they should need it. In cases of both physical and emotional safety, girls know what to do and who to ask for help and that help is close at hand. A nurse is on call all day and all through the night for emergencies.
- At Brown Ledge, we cultivate a culture of kindness and respect. Having worked in both a school and camp setting, I am often struck by the fact that there is less meanness, less “relational aggression” at camp than there is at school, where children are virtually never out of sight of an adult. Brown Ledge is not a cliquey place and girls who have been at Brown Ledge for years tell us how important it has been to have a place where they feel accepted, where they can be their true selves without fear of exclusion.
- Working through the minor squabbles and learning to give and take is one of the benefits of any summer camp, but especially ours, where girls are given so much opportunity to solve their own problems. I see my experience at Brown Ledge repeated today. It was amazing how quickly we learned that secretly helping oneself to a bunkie’s care package or sitting on her bed in a wet bathing suit was going to cause trouble and it wasn’t worth it. We learned a lot – quickly – about how to treat each other. AND we learned to take things in stride. Best not to make too big a deal over the bunkie who forgot to sweep before inspection. There is always tomorrow.
To hear more about cabin life from our campers, watch this video.