Dear Camp Counselor:
I dropped my son off at camp this morning, like I do most summer mornings, but today was a little different. Last night we packed a bag full of clothes, a toothbrush, soap (not like he’ll use it), his blanket, a few must have toys, and a flashlight. Today he brought it with him as I let him go with you for the next few nights. I was excited for him this morning. He felt like such a big guy. This afternoon, as I write this, I’m a little panicked. Do you have any idea, young man, of the honor I just gave you? I am allowing you, trusting you, to care for my son. I’ve not given anyone this right other than family members. You have one of the most precious possessions I have in your care. I hope you don’t take that lightly. I carried that little man in my belly for 9 months. I endured stretch marks, sciatica, sleepless night, no wine, for 10 months (that’s right, my babies took 10 months to cook). I brought that little boy into this world and have cared for, fed, worried over, played with and raised him for the past 7 years. I watched him take his first breath, his first steps. I sat next to him in his hospital bed through a serious illness, I held him after his first, second and 15th tumble from his bicycle.
All this, and yet, did you know that two days with you may stick with him longer than any of those memories he might have? He will forever remember the first time he ventured out of this house and slept in a cabin. The first time he’ll eat a meal completely of his choosing. If he doesn’t want the veggies, he doesn’t have to eat them. This is a freedom he’s never known before and it will be a heady thing. You will become, instantly, a hero. You are a man to him. Not a dad, not a grandpa, but a man. Someone he can look at and say, “I could be like him someday”. You will be cool, even if you don’t feel that way in your everyday life. My son will listen to and remember every word you say, so chose your words with care. He will remember how you treat others, so treat others with dignity and respect. He will look to you, for two short days, as a man, so I implore you…be one.
Be the kind of man you hope to be someday (if not today) for my son. Show him what it looks like to have fun, to be cool, to be creative, but also what it looks like to make good decisions. If you make good choices look cool, my son will follow. Do you understand that counselor? My son will follow you. Two days, it’s only two days, you say. Think of the most impactful thing to happen to you as a seven-year-old. Was it something that happened over a month, or was it merely a moment?
I trust you counselor. This is not just a fun summer job, though it is that. You have a dozen young men every week looking to you for guidance as they exercise their independence from mom and dad and from the schoolroom. This is a necessary part of my son’s development. He has to learn what it is like to make decisions without me nearby. He’ll need to learn to solve his own problems, and I hope I have instilled enough in him that he’ll make the right choices.
Two days from now I hope to find him with a bag, some dirty clothes, a toothbrush, soap (preferably used), his blanket, a few toys, a flashlight, and wonderful memories that he will always have of this place, the friends he made and the counselor he thought was “totally awesome”.
Dear Counselor, I am trusting you. I hope you feel this a burden. Not to put a damper on your fun in the sun, but only to help you realize that with every effort you put into those young boys to help them grow into young men, you will grow yourself. I am proud you’ve chosen to do this. I trust you.
By the by, ever seen a mama bear near her cubs? Keep that image in your head if you get any ideas that may end in the land of “poor choices” around my kid. I will hunt. you. down. <>