Yesterday Boy Wonder and I dropped Jess to Barretstown. It was a glorious day, the sun danced through the canopy of trees as we wound our way round the country lanes to Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare. The tingle of anticipation for a ten day sibling camp had infected the entire car, we were like a heard of deer on full alert, scanning each gap in the hedges for the first delicious view of the castle gates. I couldn't help noticing that this time she was even more excited at the prospect of going back. A mixture of age and experience perhaps, but I also think the magic of Barretstown had a role to play.
Their philosophy is simple: get kids together, give them loads of love and encouragement then throw in some amazing activities and sit back and watch them blossom. By taking these kids away from the stress of living with a sick brother or sister, this camp allows them to take risks, to take their feet off the brakes and just let loose.
I once read that a parent's job was to provide roots and wings for their child. Childhood illness has uprooted us and clipped our wings at times. We work at it, but it's not always easy. Barretstown allows me to sub-contract some of my parental responsibilities, at least in the short term, until I regain my nerve. These camps have reinstated the devil-may-care licence of her childhood.
Thank you Paul Newman, and your Barretstown Gang, I hope you can see her standing tall, unfurling those powerful wings to their full life-enhancing childhood span: un-clipped and uninhibited.