This week, I will be heading back to my old stomping grounds - Louisville, KY - for this year's CCA Family Retreat. I'm really looking forward to seeing some familiar faces, meeting new ones and putting faces with the names I've "met" through emails, Facebook and other CCA communication.
This will be my family's 3rd retreat experience. When Aiden was 16 months old, we were in Dallas for his post-op visit after his 1st cranial vault and it worked out that we were able to attend the symposiums at Great Wolf Lodge prior to flying home. We didn't get to stay for the whole retreat, but it gave me a chance to check things out. It was early in our craniofacial journey and we were still feeling things out when it came to reaching out to others and finding support. What I saw in that short period of time got me interested in participating in the next year's retreat in Boston.
We made our plans to attend the Boston retreat and counted down the days. I brought along my son Aiden (then 2), my mom, my sister and my aunt - they all wanted to be a part of this amazing experience (and enjoy the sights of "bean-town" too). Although this was our first full retreat, there were so many people that I'd already become acquainted with during doctors visits, hospital stays and by swapping stories on various support groups online. It was really cool to meet and get to know each other better in a setting that didn't necessarily involve stressful medical situations.
The activities were fun, the hotel was nice, but what really made the entire experience worthwhile was seeing the kids interact so comfortably. You could tell that they felt at ease among their peers and didn't have to worry about their differences taking center stage as they sometimes might in other social settings. The siblings got to hang out with other unaffected siblings who could relate to things they were going through as well. The dynamic was astounding, and even though Aiden was still a little young to get the full effect, I knew at that moment that this was an experience he and our family would enjoy in the years to come.
Here we are a year later, and we are anxiously awaiting the start of this year's retreat. We've been discussing the event with the boys - we will be bringing both Ethan (4) and Aiden (3) - and they seem genuinely excited about it. We've been talking about how there will be other kids who look a little like Aiden. And while Ethan doesn't even think twice about how his brother is "different", naturally I am a bit concerned with how he might react to seeing so many unique faces, so we've been showing him pictures from past retreats and pointing out how happy everyone is to be there. They know this is a time to have fun and make new friends and I think they will become more comfortable once things are under way.
We look forward to this week's events and can't wait to share our experience on the blog! We hope to meet many of you there, or if you've never been, we hope to show you the many reasons why you should mark your calendar for next year's CCA Retreat.