The 6 Top Reasons Every Girl Should Go To Outdoor Camp

DSC06238It’s that time of year, the time when parents are bombarded with emails and snail mails asking them to send their children to camp.  While there are many different kinds of camps that focus on everything from making your child the next Peyton Manning to teaching them how to audition for Broadway, every child should have the opportunity to experience a good, old-fashioned outdoor camp, especially girls.

Why, you ask, is it so important to send my daughter to camp?  Simply put, there are things that your daughter will learn at camp that she might never learn at home, and I don’t mean building a fire or pitching a tent, though she may learn those skills as well.  The truth is that there are things that are much more important that she will learn to do that you can’t teach her but that she can learn on her own through experience and observation.  How do I know this?  Because after twelve years of volunteering at an all-girls camp and ten years of running the camp, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Simple Milestones 

Imagine your five-year-old pulling out her own clothes, dressing herself, and even tying her shoes.  Oh, she doesn’t?  You’ve tried over and over to teach her about the bunny crawling into the hole, but she just can’t do it by herself?  You might be surprised.  I can’t count the amount of girls who have come to me with brilliant smiles because they just tied their own shoes for the very first time.  All of the other girls can tie their own shoes, and suddenly that stubborn, strong-willed, “mommy, please do it for me” child wants to accomplish this task for herself.  Add to the mix a totally cool, upbeat, teenage girl who encourages her every morning to get dressed, fix her hair, tie her shoes, even brush her teeth, and every little girl wants to prove that she, too, can be the big girl that her teen counselor knows she can be.  I remember the first time my niece came to camp.  My brother was amazed when she came home and insisted on fixing her own hair “the way Giggles fixed it at camp.”

Handling Things Out of Anyone’s Control

It’s raining today, and your daughter refuses to go to school because she has to walk from the front door to the car.  Imagine her running, giggling all the way, from her cabin to the unit house to play games with her friends until the rain passes.  Imagine her swimming in the rain (as long as there’s no thunder and lightning), not only without complaint, but without even noticing the falling drops.  When it rains at camp, the activities must go on.  The lesson leaned – life goes on.  Just because something comes along that we can’t control doesn’t mean we throw in the towel.  As long as it’s safe, everything continues.  And if it’s not safe to be outdoors, we improvise – games and activities inside the program center, extra snacks, maybe even a movie, whatever it takes to keep having fun.  Life throws you curves, and time at camp teaches girls that they can hit a home run no matter what the pitch is.

Trying New Things

Whether it’s a meal she would never eat at home or an activity she would never dream of trying, camp is all about doing something new.  We once had a girl at camp who quickly gained the nickname, Carrots, because, as you may have guessed, she would eat nothing but carrots.  By the end of day two, she was trying new foods and asking for seconds.  Camp makes you hungry!  And if all of the other girls are eating it, there’s a good chance, she will, too.  The same goes for trying things that she might never do with or for Mom.  No offense moms, but there are far too many times that we don’t push our daughters to do challenging or even scary things because, well, because they’re our daughters.  Part of it is the fear that something will happen to them, and part of it is because we often don’t give them credit for being able to do it, or, let’s be honest, we don’t want to do it ourselves.  There are few things that get me smiling more than watching a little girl go from crying her eyes out and refusing to even climb the ladder to hearing her squeals of delight as she glides through the air on a zip line.  The satisfaction comes not from knowing that she was talked into going, but from knowing that she convinced herself that she could.

Coping With Fears

There was once a little girl at camp who cried herself to sleep every night.  She cried through programs, she cried through meals, she cried through swimming and archery and everything else that the other girls did with joy.  This year, that little girl is the floor manager at CNN and an adult camp counselor.  She has been coming since the age of five, through grade school, middle school, high school, and college. She comforts little girls and tells them her story.  After twenty years of coming to camp, she boasts that there isn’t any place she’d rather be.  Whether it’s zip lining over a deep ravine, being away from Mom and Dad, or surviving thunderstorms and spiders, girls leave camp knowing that they can overcome anything.  And nine out of ten of those girls will be back the next year.

Discovering the Unknown

There is so much that girls can learn and discover at camp, and some of them might surprise you.  Inner city girls come to camp and see giant, sunbathing turtles for the first time.  Girls with no siblings learn to share a room (actually, a cabin or a tent) and eat at a table of twelve talking, laughing girls.  First time campers feel the power that comes with spending the week away from home.  More importantly, girls learn tolerance, respect, and empathy.  This past year, we had a little girl with autism attend camp for the first time.  At first, the other girls weren’t sure what to think about Brie (pictured above).  Some may have been scared, and several were apprehensive about being near her or working with her because they recognized that she was different.  It didn’t take long for them to see her as a beautiful, loving, intelligent girl who isn’t really any different than the rest of them but who just needed their assistance and their patience.  While Brie’s mother felt that her daughter left camp having learned so many new things, it was really the staff and the other campers who truly learned the most.  We are all better for spending the week with her.

Becoming a Leader

The vast majority of girls who return to our camp have one goal in mind – to keep coming long enough to become a teen counselor.  Those ultra cool young ladies who brush hair, hold hands, dry tears, and read stories are the envy of every little girl at camp.  The girls want to grow up to be just like those teens with intriguing camp names like Giggles, Broadway, Twizzler, and Trouble.  That is quite an honor because those teenagers grow up to be remarkable young women.  Many of them, like Tinkerbell who works at CNN, continue coming to camp through high school, college, and beyond.  One of our counselors is a schoolteacher who comes to camp every year with her own daughters.  She has been coming since she was in grade school.  We have several college girls who plan to be doctors, nurses, and lawyers.  We have adults who are in those fields and others: a school administrator, a former crime scene technician, heck, even a published author.  Many of our all-volunteer staff went to camp themselves, either at our camp or a similar one.  They know the importance of instilling goals and confidence in our campers so that they can be the leaders of tomorrow.

So before you delete that email or throw away that brochure, picture your daughter.  Not the daughter you live with, the one you see every day, the one you dress and coddle.  Picture your daughter as an independent, self-confident, successful adult.  She can get that way through a number of routes, but the one she will always remember and want to return to again and again is an all-girls summer camp.  She will develop friendships that will last a lifetime and memories that will both entice and inspire her to become the person you always knew she could be.  What more could you ask for?

Amy Schisler is an author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages who lives with husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015.  You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

Unbound

DSC05175Standing in the Academia Museum in Florence, Italy, in all his glory, is Michelangelo’s David.  Said to be the perfect depiction of the human body, this sculpture is visited by approximately 3 million people each year.  But just around the corner from the statue of the perfect body stand Michelangelo’s non-finito sculptures, the Slaves.  For many years, it was thought that these four pieces of marble were simply unfinished works, but many scholars now believe that the great master purposely left them the way they are to portray man’s struggle to break free of his bondage – perhaps his own internal or perceived shortcomings. slaves-bearded-atlas-760x6422

The other day, as I was getting into the shower, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  As usual, I started thinking about how inadequate my body is with its scars and rolls, far from the perfection sought by the great masters or by society.  Then it hit me.  The scar that runs along my lower abdomen represents the 3 beautiful children I brought into this world.  Without that scar, there would not be Rebecca, Katie, or Morgan.  Those rolls, that I work so hard to get rid of, are a result of a combined twenty-seven months of carrying my children.  The lines and shadows on my face trace the many joys and tears of a good life.

slaves-awakening-young-760x628I worry about my girls and how they see themselves in this world
where girls are expected to be pencil thin and have perfect, unblemished bodies.  I’m pretty sure that when the Bible said that God created us in His image, it didn’t mean that God looks like Channing Tatum or Naomi Campbell, so why are those the types of bodies that we all worship? Do three million people stand agape in front of the David because they recognize the bodily perfection or because they are seeking it and can’t find it in the real world?  Is there truly a “perfect” body?

What have we done to our youth?  Most girls and young women don’t have childbirth scars, wrinkles, and the like, yet everyone expects them to have absolute perfect bodies no matter their genetic makeup or body type.  We actually had a doctor prescribe dieting and extra workouts for a child who is a year-round athlete and eats nothing but healthy food.  I don’t know whether to worry about her becoming overweight or spiraling into bulimia.  The idea that all girls should look like a Kardashian is ridiculous.  And we mothers, grandmothers, big sisters, and aunts – in fact, all women –  need to stop contributing to that fallacy.  Being healthy is good, being overly conscious about our weight and bodies is not.  Stop talking about being “fat,” and posting memes on Facebook with complaints about your body, and most of all, stop putting down other women for the way they look.  Let’s rejoice in who we are and we have to offer this world.  slaves-bearded-atlas-760x642

When I look at my friends who have multiple children, I see true beauty, inside and out.  When I look at my friend who suffered from anorexia, I see someone who is brave and strong and can do anything she puts her mind to.  When I see girls trying their hardest on the field or in the classroom, I see young women learning where and how they belong in this world.  When I see girls scantily dressed, showing off body parts that should only be seen in the shower, I wonder what they will do someday when faced with body fat, wrinkles, age spots.  How will they adapt?  Do they not know that their bodies will only look like that for a short time and that there is so much more that they can and should be proud of?

So I ask each of you females to make a pledge today to become unbound.  Stop complaining about the way you look.  You are beautiful.  And if you don’t like it, change it, but do it right. Let your daughters or those other young women in your life who look up to you see that you like yourself and that you are living a healthy lifestyle, looking out for your body’s best interests but not trying to be something that society says you have to be.  Do it for you, not because you think someone else believes that you should look a certain way.  And point out the good in the women you know, not their flaws.

slaves-awakening-young-760x6282I ask each of you males – husbands, boyfriends, fathers – tell the females in your life that you love them just the way they are.  Don’t just tell them that they are beautiful because beauty is fleeting and subjective, and eventually, they won’t believe you anymore.  Find the very best things in them and help to make those parts shine for the world to see.  We must get past the superficial and start appreciating each other for who we are and what we have to give.

There are very few Davids in this world, but there are many Slaves.  We are all slaves to our bodies, to the demands of society, to the inner voice that tells us we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, sexy enough.  It’s time to break out of the marble that encases us and be slaves no more to the warped idea of perfection.  It’s okay to aim for perfection, but know that we are human, and humanity is far from perfect, unless of course, it’s carved in stone.  And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather lie in bed next to a warm, soft, imperfect body than a cold, hard, perfectly chiseled piece of marble.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Is It Worth It?

snowconesThe dog days of summer are upon us, and in our family, that usually means one thing – snowcones!   For several years now, our family has owned and operated a snowcone business in the tiny, tourist town of St. Michaels on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Ken and I support the business by maintaining the stand, ordering product, and financing the equipment; but the daily operations, inventory, record-keeping, etc. are all done by the girls.

I am often amazed by the number of children these days who do not have a summer job.  Our girls have been working the stand since Morgan was about nine years old.  And while it sounds like fun, it’s hard work.  The daily set-up itself is a real chore, and there’s no respite from the sun or heat.  On some days, the line of families stretches down the whole block, and whichever girl is working needs to keep moving hand over fist as quickly as she can to satisfy her waiting customers.  It’s demanding, boring on slow days, but overall, very rewarding.

Recently a girl in Morgan’s class called her spoiled because she owns both an iPad and iPhone.  Morgan rebuked her saying she paid for both items and pays the monthly fee with her own hard earned money.  When we travel, any and all souvenirs that the girls want, they have to buy.  The number one question they have to ask before making any purchase is “is it worth it?”

That’s the same question that Ken and I ask ourselves every spring when we dig out the machine and assess the shape of the cart.  The answer has always been a resounding yes.  Every time the girls deposit their money into the bank, they do so with the great satisfaction that they earned every penny of that money.  Every purchase is carefully thought out, and big items are saved for only by dividing up their earnings into savings and spending so that they are always putting at least half of the money away.

As with most things, the girls have grown up and are starting to move on.  This summer, Morgan does more babysitting than making snowballs, but she’s our backup when Katie can’t work.  Rebecca has worked for the past two summers at a law firm, gaining the experience she will need in her future career, but she, too, jumps in and works the stand when needed.  So while many of the other teens my girls know will be sitting by the pool this 4th of July weekend, my girls will be working hard.  Is it worth it?  Ask Rebecca tonight after she finalizes the purchase of her very first brand new car.  We think it’s worth every hard earned penny. But more importantly, it’s worth every lesson learned, every hot, sweaty day in the sun when not wanting to be there isn’t an option, and every time someone remarks on what the girls have and they can be satisfied in knowing that they earned it.  In a world where young people spend most of their time lazily lying around, playing video games, and doing things that get them into trouble, at least I know that my girls are learning the value of a dollar.  Yes, it’s worth it.