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Onondaga Camp

Duncan Robertson


February 1, 2017

Here’s to 2017!

February 1, 2017 | By | No Comments

Wow, 2016 went quickly.

Every year seems to go faster than the last and while all three of our kids seem increasingly more mature, our own family’s gauge of “time flying by” is seen with our three-year-old, our ‘baby of the family,’ who can now dress and feed himself and can even take part in some extra-curricular activities that aren’t ‘parent tot.’  With each passing day, we experience a little more independence on his end and a little more ‘freedom’ on ours.

In any case, because this year all three just seemed a little more grown up all around, there was a bit more time for reflection over the holidays so I spent some time thinking about new year’s goals I’d love to work on.  These goals came to me while looking back on my own year of camp and camper interactions, and from thoughts gathered from books I started reading (but never finished). Also from Tragically Hip lyrics.

As a personal aside, and as I’m sure is the same in many homes…Gord Downie and The Hip are our family’s band. Like our ‘house wine’ so to speak.  They provide the soundtrack for our day to day. I am a lifelong fan and by playing their music from our kitchen speaker at all times, I seem to have instilled the same love of song in my own kids.  Any word or phrase could trigger a full lyrics showdown from Kaiya or Crew at dinner time which I think is hilarious (it also warms my heart when they do this).

“…Let’s raise a glass of milk to the end of another day, and to the kiss that’s still intangible, the kids are alright just unmanageable, they won’t do a damn thing you say.” – Emperor Penguin

Back to my resolutions. After a long and hard think about this, I have two resolutions I want to work on this year.

Resolution Number One: To see my children challenge themselves every day.

I was recently recommended the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.  While I have not yet finished this book, I really like the concept, which is that there are people with fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.

Fixed mindset people “pass up the chance for learning.” They get discouraged or quit when something becomes challenging or requires effort.

Growth mindset people “take the challenge.” They may not achieve something on their first go at it, but they don’t place blame or make excuses. Instead, these folks are constantly looking forward, learning from their mistakes so as to eventually achieve their end goal. I see growth mindset in our campers all the time.  We have really outstanding campers at Onondaga.

“For a good life, we just might have to weaken, and find somewhere to go, go somewhere we’re needed, Find somewhere to grow…” – It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken

I was reminded of (and guided by) your amazing growth mindset campers last month when my own daughter tried out for her school play, which has been her entire elementary school dream to be part of.  After extensive preparation she was given the role of “Woman One.” As you can presume, this was not the lead role she had auditioned (and longed) for.  She was upset.  Her initial statement when she came home that night was that she didn’t get the part because she’s not in grade six.  While I could understand her true disappointment, instead of making excuses (and keeping of course the notes from this half-read book in mind), I wanted her instead to embrace her ‘Woman One’ status while all the while thinking of things she could do this year to try to be awarded a bigger role next year.  Again and again I see your campers, LITs and staff members learning from their experiences, taking challenges head on, conducting themselves in a mature manner, really striving to make their next experience a better one.  My hope is to instill this same growth mindset in my own kids.

“Isn’t it amazing anything’s accomplished, When a little sensation gets in your way, Not one ambition whispering over your shoulder, Isn’t it amazing you can do anything.” – Fireworks

Resolution Number Two: Ensure my kids are full of grace, empathy and grit.

I would be lying if I said that the US elections didn’t play a part in this resolution.  Now more than ever, I want my kids to realize the importance of being kind, of being thoughtful, compassionate and understanding. I want to encourage them to (continue to!) express their opinions but to always do so with tolerance and sensitivity.  I want them to be respectful, appreciative and loving (and to also eat with their mouths closed, Alyson says).  And I hope that they always use their voices for good.

In the book “Grit, The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth, she notes, “When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room but I’ll strive to be the grittiest.”  In another great NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) blog post I stumbled on, Ryan Feeley wrote that we need to train our children “to persist, to pause if they find themselves on the wrong path, to admit confusion, to seek fresh perspectives and then to demonstrate the humility to try a new direction.”  I love that.  This is what I want from my own kids.  This is what I already see in so many of yours.

“Armed with will and determination and grace too…Armed with skill and determination, and grace too.” – Grace, Too

My cousin told me before having kids that we could always learn from those with children older than our own.  Never have truer words been spoken.  I learn from your children all year long. When I bump into them on the street and they come right up to me, even amongst their friends, and shake my hand or give me a hug and say ‘Duncan! You remember me from camp right, I’m XX and I come for Session A1,” it never fails to impress me.  I wish for the same confidence in my own children.  I admire this so much in yours.

So there they are.  My 2017 goals.  Making my goals about my kids is by no means meant to infer that I have no personal goals of my own to work on. Just too many to list! Don’t we all just want the best for our kids… and on that note, I heard my son singing these lyrics this morning while getting dressed which I think will resonate with all parents… “I love you so much. It distorts my life. What drove and drives you, drove and drives me too.” – What Blue

Here’s to 2017! And to Onondaga’s 100th summer!





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