How My Time as an Ondessonk Camper and Counselor Prepared Me For Being a Better Parent
How My Time as an Ondessonk Camper and Counselor Prepared Me For Being a Better Parent- by Mandy (Byron) Marggraf
Sing loudly. I don’t mean sing well. I mean dance around and belt it out like you are trying to prove to tween that they can have fun without fear of being teased for it, because no one could possibly be more ridiculous than you. It sounds crazy, but it’s hard to keep any negative emotion, be it frustration, sadness or anger, at the forefront when you force yourself to sing loudly and act silly. This has made many a dinnertime clean up go from moments of extreme aggravation to fun.
Get dirty together. It’s easy to get frustrated at my mud monsters, I mean three boys, for the mess they make. Unless I am rolling around in the mud with them; then it’s just fun. Nothing gave me more credit as a camp counselor than a good mud fight. I still remember how I felt when I had one with my counselors when I was ten. I want my kids to have a solid foundation, remembering those moments with me so that, in a few years, when I ground them and take away their driving privileges or phones, some small part of them will remember that I like to have fun too, and that their punishments are a result of their choices, not what I come up with for kicks.
At all times, but especially when near water, STAY WITH YOUR BUDDY! Buddies are what get us through life’s ups and downs. They are what make good times more enjoyable and bad times bearable. Bonus points if they also help keep you from drowning. Somehow the buddies you make at Camp will manage to be the ones who continue to provide those emotional supports for decades to come. How connections built in just days last a lifetime is the greatest miracle of Camp, and one I am thrilled to see my own children already benefitting from.
Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for. Given time, they usually figure out some pretty awesome solutions to life’s problems on their own. We are doing our kids a disservice when we fix all of their problems for them. As a camp counselor, I have watched cabins of kids solve all kinds of problems with nothing more than supervision and an encouraging word. You haven’t really appreciated kids until you see eight 11-year old girls devise a booby trap for a candy stealing raccoon or stay up late to build blockades out of empty soda cans to make sure their sleep walking bunk mate doesn’t get out of the cabin without someone noticing. The fact that they took turns waking up early to dismantle and hide their ingenious creation so the girl didn’t feel embarrassed is heart-melting. As a parent, I use these experiences to remind myself that I don’t need to take control EVERY time my children have a problem, which, let’s be honest, is approximately every four seconds. This has helped all of us tremendously.
Kids can’t bounce off the walls if there are no walls. Camp is the one place I can bring my three boys (under five) without ever having to worry about their behavior being appropriate. Why? Because active exploring is the very essence of Camp. There are times to be quiet and reflect, yes. But that’s a lot easier to do after having hiked multiple miles.
An item’s value is yours to determine. Some of the gadgets kids typically see as their most valuable possessions mean nothing at camp. A poker chip, carefully placed into a Pringles can during a marathon, ensuring all your hard work doesn’t result in disqualification, is invaluable. I remember this when my child melts down over a balloon that gets popped or a broken crayon I foolishly thought could be thrown away. Value does not equal an item’s cost; it represents a child’s care.
It is easier to get your children to respect God when they get to spend all day in the glory of his creation. To this day, my children have never made it through our regular Sunday church service without some threat of punishment or promise of a bribe for appropriate behavior. But in an outdoor rock cathedral, 400 kids listen with quiet respect, without parental supervision, while packed in tightly next to 40 of their friends. Let’s just all agree to call that what it is, a miracle.