Monday, July 25, 2011

Back from Pact Camp 2011

We're back from another amazing year at Pact Camp. This makes year number 5!

Major props to the Pact staff for their continued drive to create this experience that changes our lives year after year.  Beth Hall, Susan Ito and Deanna Matthews deserve gold medals for all they give and do to support our families. Here are my highlights for what their dedication brought to us this year.

The counselors were amazing. Every year Pact brings in young folks as counselors from all over the country, though mostly the Oakland area.  Pact spends 2 days training them on race, adoption, behavior as an expression of struggling emotions, and how to handle most of whatever our kids might come out with while in their care. These young people come back year after year, their love and dedication for the campers shining through.  Both of my children adore their counselors (some of whom they've worked with for 5 years now!!) and thrive under their care.

The adult programs were, as usual, superb.  JaeRan Kim (blogger of Harlow's Monkey fame) and Mary Sheedy-Kurchinka (author of "Spirited Child," "Kids, Parents and Power Struggles, " and "Sleepless In America") both spoke as keynotes.  JaeRan inspired me to think in the long term about our kids' journey and identity development in life. They are children for such a short time. We as parents we need to aim towards adulthood, equipping our kids with the skills and relationships they need once they leave our homes. JaeRan showed a beautiful combination of professional, expert presentation and authentic personal vulnerability.  It is truly an honor to sit in the presence of someone so willing to share so deeply of herself for the good of my child. It stills makes me weepy to think of the depth of the gift she offered us.

Mary Sheedy-Kurchinka's talk focused on how to connect with our kids - calm, collect, collaborate.  Almost everything she said came back to sleep - no-one in America seems to be getting enough sleep and being tired makes everything harder. I loved her overall messages, and I was blown away by her dynamic presentation style that was fun, entertaining and seemed to take into account reseach-driven principles about how people learn best.

Behind the scenes with our kids I know there were professionals prompting thoughts and conversations with our kids.  While I didn't hear much back from kids about the conversations or their own thinking, I know the people working with my kids did a great job because of the enthusiasm both Theo and Rosie showed in sharing their art with me. Sessions were set up to communicate back to parents the work that was being done with the kids, however I missed or opted out of them. Because....

One of the draw backs, always, about camp is that there is too much wonderfulness going on for me to absorb it all.  This year camp organizers created a multitude of small group sessions.  Each afternoon I benefited from presentations and conversations while longing to duplicate myself so I could attend other sessions at the same time. I sat in on conversations about blended families (adopted and born to siblings), the racial achievement gap, "can kids of color thrive in a white environment?", and very sadly napped through two spoken pieces by adult adoptees that I deeply admire.

What really makes camp amazing is the people.  Not just in their roles as presenter, therapist, adult adoptee, counselor or adoptive parent, but the people as their whole selves.  The insight, sharing, pain, regret, struggles, victories and resources that so many people shared with me teach and inspire me how to be the person and parent my children need.

Set near Lake Tahoe, the logistics of camp were much easier for us this year than in the past.  Real beds and fully insulated walls helped with sleeping.  The food worked great for our family, hallelujah!  The site was beautiful, easy to navigate and had a truly lovely swimming pool with an actually hot hot tub.

Finally, a giant bonus for my family, there was sunshine!  With this very wet Seattle summer, we were all grateful to be warm and dry for a few days.

These 4 days at camp will bring lasting change to our lives again this year.  While the changes we make for our family are no longer so abrupt and visible, the depth and honesty of the conversation allows space for each of us to grow and learn.  It is an amazing experience.

I hope you will join us next year!

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