Second Session has begun in fine form

Greetings from Hilltop. All is well at Four Winds on the first night of Second Session. All campers have arrived safely, except for three who were on a late flight, and those three will be here within an hour or so. As I write this, the campers are settling in, unpacking, and getting to know each other, laying the groundwork for what is sure to be a great session.

This afternoon, the boats bringing the campers pulled into Four Winds Bay. Up on Greenie Hill, the counselors and campers who were dropped off by their parents were waiting and cheering. As each boat pulled in, the campers ran up Greenie to meet their cabinmates and counselors. It was a beautiful day, and the energy was electric. The staff was energized and ready after their time off, and the campers were eager to get this experience going.

Once each cabin and tent had all its members, they left Greenie and went to their cabins and tents. They settled a bit, learned names and a bit about each other, and prepared an introductory skit for our first flag-lowering of the session, which happened shortly after that. We had a hearty dinner of pasta, salad, and brownies for dessert, and then met on the lodge steps. We sang songs while everyone gathered, and then Danielle, our Assistant Director, and I went to the bottom of the stairs to talk the whole camp. We welcomed them, made some announcements about how the rest of the night would work, and celebrated the fact that we have people here in their first summer up through their 15th, and campers and staff here from 25 states and 15 countries. Then, everyone went back to cabins and tents to get unpacked and settle in for the night.

Tomorrow, we’ll have Rotation Day. We’ll take care of a bunch of beginning of camp jobs, like sorting out the campers’ activity schedules, taking the swim test, visiting the nurse, switching uniforms that don’t fit and having cabin photos taken. In between all those jobs, we’ll play games, get to know each other more and make sure everyone knows their way around the property. For evening activity, we’ll play Biffer Medic, and elaborate game of tag in which campers attempt to match clues to staff sitting around the sports field, while avoiding other staff, “Biffers,” who are trying to biff them with a sock filled with flour. Never fear, there is a third group of staff, the “Medics” who can unfreeze campers by way of a crazy task if they are tagged and frozen. As with all evening activities at Four Winds, we’ll end with songs. It’s a great way to end the day.

These campers are about to embark on an adventure. They’re going to try new things, make genuine friendships, become a part of something bigger than themselves, and discover the joy of unplugged fun. I’m excited for them, but right now, we need to start from the beginning. None of the higher-order stuff that we value so highly here can happen until everyone is well-fed, rested, and hydrated, until they have enough blankets and know that there’s a counselor they can go to if they need help with something. We’re right at the beginning, so our focus is on those basic needs.

A word about homesickness: It’s a natural part of being away from home and family. I know I feel it when I travel for work. But adults have more experience with a range of emotions, and in general, tend to feel their feelings less intensely than kids do. For campers experiencing homesickness for the first time, it can be quite a big experience. It is, though, and age-appropriate challenge and one for which our staff is at the ready to help. When campers overcome those challenging emotions and succeed at camp, it’s proof that they are capable of extraordinary things. If you get a homesick letter, please call us. Most of the time, by the time you receive the letters, the feelings have passed, and we can give you a happy update. Every once in a while, a camper hides his or her feelings from staff and only expresses them in a letter home. In that case, your call can help alert us to get your camper the help they need. If you’re worried about or interested in homesickness, I highly recommend the book Homesick and Happy, by the psychologist Michael Thompson. It’s not only a compelling read on homesickness, but it’s also a manifesto on the power of long term traditional sleepaway camp. It will give you a great window into your child’s experience here.

Speaking of letters, I’m sure many of you are interested in how you can follow along with your camper’s experience. Letter writing is undoubtedly the primary method, and that dying art is alive and well at Four Winds in the summer. Feel free to write your campers. Asking questions in your letters is great because kids don’t have a lot of letter writing experience, and often a prompt helps. We’ll attempt to nudge the campers to write letters, but if you’d like us to give your camper a specific nudge, just call the office and ask. The second way you can get a glimpse of your camper’s experience is via our various methods of electronic communication. I’ll blog here once a week on Sundays. We’ll also send out updates nearly every day on Twitter. You don’t need to join Twitter to get the updates; you can just go to the website, or text the phrase “follow fourwindscamp” to the number 40404 to get the updates by text message. We’re neophytes at Instagram, but we’ll post a photo there (without identifiable campers) about once a week. Finally, if you’d like a specific update on how your camper is doing, just call our office. The staff here are happy to do a check-in and get back to you.

Thank you for sharing your children with us for the next four weeks. They’re in for an incredible experience, one that puts them in a grand, 90-year-old tradition but which many of them are experiencing for the first time. It’s a privilege to take that journey with them. Until Sunday, we’ll see you on Twitter.