For two separate weeks this month the boys have spent their time at three of Pine Cove's many summer camps. If you don't know Pine Cove already, you should. Established in 1968, it is now one of the largest and most well-respected Christian camps in Texas, if not farther afield. For us, it has been and continues to be one of the best discoveries Husband and I have made as parents.
What makes it so great? What makes the boys so happy? To start with, they never sleep. Well, almost never, or so it seems. The kids are up early, the days are full, and the nights go on, well, late into the night. The boys are busy with their new friends, and as a consequence they have very little time to think of anything else. During their two weeks at camp this summer they have climbed rock walls, flew down enormous water slides, shot BBs, 22s, and bows and arrows, played soccer, flag football, war ball, paintball and lasertag, learned to sail and kayak, flew down the zip line, swam every day, gone horseback riding and mountain bike riding, flown off the Blob, and played Medieval war games (yes, everyone had a sword and helmet for that last one).
And those were just the "activities". They also had daily Bible studies, evening "club" where they could sing and dance to praise songs and then cool down by listening to a talk on spiritual "stuff". Their nights were made even longer by "theme nights", where they dressed as pirates, had dance parties, wallowed in the mud at the Buffalo Hunt, crept through the woods in full camo, and so on and so forth. See what I mean? There was very little sleeping. Lots of fun, but not a lot of time to sit back on your bunk and think about how much you miss your home or dog or mom or...
All of this activity is still balanced, if not by 10 hours in the sack each night, but by a chance to get to know their cabinmates and counselors very, very well. Each cabin has 6 to 8 kids and a full-time counselor. The camp recruits at over 140 college campuses each year, and the counselors and staff they find are phenomenal. Even after only six days, each boy's counselor knew him and had insightful and affirming things to say about him and his character. For example, today we received One's "character certificate", which reads: "[One] is analytical, allowing him to understand difficult concepts. He is firm, grounded in his beliefs. [One] is forthright." Uh, yup: that would be One. And Two's counselor this past week (very, very beloved by him) wrote: "[Two] is a compassionate young man. He is generous and willing to help others regardless of the situation. He is expressive and readily shares his joy with those around him." Oh, praise God! It is enough most of the time that we can see these qualities peeking out amidst all the wildness that two boys embody. But that a counselor who knows your child for six days can see these things, say these things - not only is it affirming for your child, but wow, what a boost as a parent! Maybe sometimes we get things right, at least some of the time.
As I write this both boys are tucked up in their beds, finally clean. Yes, they do make them shower every day at camp, but that doesn't mean they actually used soap. They came home this afternoon remarkably filthy, covered in smiles, sporting Keen sandal tans, and really, really tired. They are thrilled to be back, and even happier to be full of memories that they will keep with them for the rest of their lives. Some of those memories are of conquering the zip line despite great fear, others are of laughing hysterically with friends while trying to push each other off one of the water inflatables. Still others are deeper still, and hopefully are things that pushed their faith in God deeper into them, cemented their love for Him a little more, and made them a little more confident about going out into the world to follow His narrow path. Whatever is inside those two precious, half-feral, incredibly amazing children after these two camp sessions, I like it. I like what I see when I see what Pine Cove brings out in them: it is their best, and parents we can't ask for more than that.
Thank you, Pine Cove.