If you look up the word “neighborhood” in the dictionary, among the definitions is “Distinctive area: a district with characteristics that distinguish it from the areas around it.” Each year at Summer Sessions, just such a neighborhood is born — a place where families whose children are in Children’s Sessions (infants-grade 5) can gather, hang out, play and be in community. By the end of its first year at Sessions the response to Family Neighborhood was unanimous: “Let’s do this every year!”
In the Family Neighborhood families with our youngest Friends are housed together in neighboring spaces of the dormitory, with a common area for gathering. One of the lounge spaces is designated the “PYM Family Neighborhood Lounge” and offers games, puzzles, books, and Legos (a perennial favorite with the elementary crowd!). Now add the kids and their parents, and you get the distinct characteristics of our neighborhood: the sounds of play and children’s laughter, bedtime negotiations, and parents from across the yearly meeting talking long into the night.
During down-time in the afternoon, and again after evening Sessions, kids gravitate to the space and one another. While there is time for free play in their morning and evening Children’s Programs, kids love to be able to “just play” and it is a joy to watch them reconnect with buddies from previous years’ Sessions and make new ones over a puzzle or digging through the Lego box. Older children welcome babies onto their laps, and preschoolers find themselves swept up into the “big kids” play. Most of these children are too young for summer camp, so Sessions is an exciting opportunity—to stay up a bit past bedtimes, visit in one another’s dorm rooms, put on an impromptu play. Parents find similar opportunities. We reconnect with f/Friends we may only see at Sessions, and we also make new acquaintances while our children play. It is particularly wonderful to gather in the Friends who are at Sessions for the first time. The Neighborhood gives them a place to find other families and parents. While kids and parents “hanging out” has been an organic outcome of families being housed near one another at previous Sessions, the Family Neighborhood is an intentional way to embrace our community of families. It is food for the spirit to be with other parents at Sessions—to hear that others share the same experiences, to trade stories and resources, and to laugh!
this story is by Melinda Wenner Bradley, West Chester MM, and is revised from an article in PYM Today, Fall 2010