Here’s my daughter getting the Embercombe after party started. Rock N Roll kiddo. We just got back from an inspirational family camp there called ‘Grow the Grownups.’ I returned my kids to their dad filthy, covered in bites, scratches, blisters and bruises, itching, exhausted, sun-kissed and with matted hair, but with their hearts and imaginations swollen by an epic tsunami of love, friendship and connection. Sign of a good week I say.
I realise I wasn’t quite prepared for what transpired, having naively anticipated a relaxing, gentle week of play and connection with my kids. I blogged here about the last time I took my kids away for a week and they delivered a textbook version of what we call ‘Spoiled Outing Syndrome.’ This is where you have a special outing or trip with children, lavish them with attention and they respond by screaming the place down. What is really happening is that when you have time to really be present and unhurried with your child, their brain senses the extra emotional safety available and makes use of it to offload feelings about times in their life where things have been harder. The body is a clever self-mending organism, which likes to dump out old hurts and recover its optimal ability to function.
Except this time it was me who had the Spoiled Outing Syndrome. I totally melted down for the first couple of days. Finally after holding so much together in my family and for others week after week, I had reached a community of willing supporters, many of whom were highly skilled in listening. At first I couldn’t understand why I was finding this so hard; I’m quite used to juggling a lot, generally fairly competently. Then I noticed the feelings were charged with emotion left over from older hurts. There are two kids and only one of me. I can’t possibly meet all their needs and my own. It is so hard parenting, when one child has such endlessly intense needs. And there were so many couples. How come they could work out their relationships enough to be here together and I couldn’t? Why is everyone else managing OK and I’m struggling? What’s wrong with me? I wish I had someone to help me. Ironically it was within this climate of absolute support that these feelings could really surface. So I asked people for help, I said yes when people offered to listen, I cried my way through. And then as soon as I felt better… my children went full force into their own versions!
It was a phenomenally moving experience to witness such a concentrated field of parents doing the work necessary to be able to show up to their fullest for their children. Every child on the camp had someone tuned into them almost all of the time. There was a lot of play. There were a LOT of crying children being listened to. I heard not a single harsh word.
This utopia would not have been possible without the forcefield of love and safety created by the facilitators, the Play Team and the beautiful Embercombe people and land. Joanna Watters is the lead facilitator and runs daily sessions for parents. She holds the space with such safety and love and gentleness that it’s easy to find emotional release and deep insight. The other amazing aspect was the Play Team, who were highly trained and able to connect with each child and support them with any feelings. I have never felt so relaxed about handing my kids over to anyone. It was such a relief to know they would be deeply safe and respected.
I have returned with a sense of hope for the possibility that parenting in this way creates for humanity and the planet. It’s hard to notice any impact of our efforts when they are diluted by the isolation and busyness of daily life, but in this environment, you could see the potential clearly. If only all parents could receive this level of support, even just for a week. Check it out for next year http://embercombe.org/explore-our-programmes/personal-development/growing-the-grownups/