WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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A Camp Letter

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This past weekend I took the eldest to camp.  Drop-offs have gotten harder as she’s gotten older.  In her earlier years, teary little girls comforted one another.  These roam in packs, sizing one another up.  I wrote this letter to my daughter yesterday after drop-off.  No worries, though, I’m not sending it . . . yet.

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Dear Lovebug,

You know those girls we walked by yesterday whose names sound like streets in exclusive neighborhoods? When they didn’t return your sweet, excited, I-forgot-for-a-minute-I’m-thirteen hello, your face fell.  I said, “Well they won’t be asked to join the welcoming committee.”  My lame line didn’t ease their slight one bit.  You covered for them by saying they were in a hurry.  They weren’t.  

Here’s the thing . . . both of us are too willing to believe others’ assessments of us.  It’s not always helpful, particularly when the assessments are focused on perceptions of what we lack.  But the reverse is also true:  We’re too willing to believe our assessments of others.  

No doubt those girls have their own stuff to sort, but that was hard to see yesterday.  What stood out was all the shiny stuff signaling their elite teen-dom and their groupy-ness.  Their group probably has hierarchies and silly rules, but you’d have to be on the inside to know those.  From the outside it just seems to hold the freedom, confidence, and fun of connection.  

What would happen if you took their smug non-hello and recognized it as a sign they weren’t quite ready for relationships built on who we are versus who we seem to be?  What would happen if you took your adorable, gorgeous hello and offered it to a group who didn’t have so many of the tangible, distracting signs of confidence, but who had plenty of it anyway?  What would happen if when someone gave you a I-forgot-I-was-thirteen-for-a-minute hello you gave it right back?

I’m not sure.  It could be a bust or a gift.  Despite my age, I can still fall for the curated signals of what I think I want, so I won’t blame you one bit for doing the same.  Besides, we learn our lessons in our own way and time. 

Anyhoo, here’s to a big time this summer at camp!  Brush your teeth and floss at least once per day.  Use that stuff on your face and apply your sunscreen regularly.  Hang your bathing suits to dry so they aren’t stinky and label your stuff with the stickers I sent.  Get some sleep, have a vegetable at least every other day, and write home – lots.  

Love, Mom

 

 

 

ConnectionWhitney Cain