The words “family camp” have strong reverberations for me. I spent most summers of my childhood at some church-affiliated family camp; the United Methodists have a strong tradition of camping, and that was my affiliation through most of my growing up.
We signed up for this “forever families” camp with high expectations. We hoped that it would connect us with other multicultural families, dealing with similar issues to us, particularly in regards to Judaism. Although we have acquired a degree of confidence in our parenting approach, and we don’t feel that we have a lot of outstanding issues at the moment, it seemed like a good way to connect with yet another supportive community.
We arrived late, having gotten started a little later than planned, and hitting too many areas of traffic. We had managed to call the camp so that they out aside some dinner for us, but we were very sorry to have missed the Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcome the Sabbath) rituals. With only a weekend, and we knew we would be leaving early on Sunday, we would have liked to take advantage, to the fullest, the introductory program.
We were warmly greeted, and given dinner. Then, the evening program commenced, and a counselor came to take S and J to the kids activities, and we were shocked to see J happily go off not the night with the counselor and his brother (that latter factor proved to be the key).
The director gave some introductory remarks, and we parents were then divided into 4 groups. R and I got assigned to different groups, and, at first we weren’t sure why. As it turned out, the groups we defined by the age(s) of the children in your family, so some parents with only one adopted child were both in a group, and others, like ours which spanned age groups, ended up in different groups. Our ice-breaker assignment was to describe how we, as families, define time and space in our homes and lives for adoption and for Judaism. It was during this exercise that it became clear to me that this weekend was going to be a bit frustrating. In my group, both the approach to the topic of Adoption, and the practice of Judaism was so wide-ranging, that we didn’t seem to have much point of connection. And, while it might seem to make sense to group parents by the age of their children, all our children seemed at such different levels in terms of acceptance and understanding of their adoption, their identity as Jews, and their needs and issues that it didn’t seem to allow for much honest sharing. We all seemed to be coming at the task of adoptive parenting with such different challenges that we couldn’t help one another much.
The campgrounds were lovely, and there were plenty of activities. S spent Saturday morning doing all the physical things he loves – swimming in the lake, sliding down a huge water slide, gliding on the zip line, and most of all, playing basketball at every opportunity. J had a tougher morning as he couldn’t be with his brother’s group, which meant that he clung to me, and wouldn’t allows me to leave him with the preschool group. He did finally make a pinwheel, which he treasured, and, after much crying and clinging, he finally surprised me by trotting off happily for a nature walk, bringing back two pine ones, and a small rock as “presents” for me.
In the afternoon, J was still having trouble settling into doing anything other than his own plans, and he had it in his head that he wanted to go fishing! So, we brought our little fishing pole down to the lake bank (no bait, no hook), but then he got distracted by opportunities to go in the water, on a floating trampoline and he forgot about the fishing. S joined us in his swim trunks, and we spent a nice afternoon (although a touch chilly) on and in the lake.
The one thing that both R and I came away from the weekend was an even greater appreciation than we already had for our adoption agency, Wide Horizons for Children, and our synagogue, Tikvat Israel, who made the transition of our family from empty nesters to having two young children. And, in addition, and not least important, our fabulous Broadman-Kaplan Early Childhood Center, with it’s wise and patient director, Rori Pollak and her fantastic teaching staff, who so helped S through his acclimation to English and to the structures of school, and set him up for such a successful year in kindergarten.
So, I guess, if nothing else, getting a renewed perspective on how well things are going is of great value. The drive to and from camp was long, and the programming wasn’t terribly helpful to us, but no regrets.