We just concluded the eighth edition of Camp Blackberry. This is a week where my wife and I have all six of our grandchildren for the week, with field trips every day, great meals, art, crafts, lots of swimming and lots of stories. We have our own song playlist and if you see us passing by on the road, we might all be singing at the top of our lungs.

It seems like yesterday that they were all babies. Now they’re growing up, too fast for sure.

I’ve written about Camp Blackberry before. The idea isn’t ours. We got it from Dr. Bob and Sue Ramger, who did Camp Ramger for many years. We learned about their camp years ago and could hardly wait for our grandchildren to get old enough to start our own.

Ours is not a commercial operation and parents outside our genetic line need not apply. Someone asked me about going on vacation this week. Huh-uh. This is anything but a vacation. It is hard work and we usually crawl in bed at night exhausted. There is a reason God gives children to young people!

Our trips this week included kayaking on Indian Boundary Lake, tubing the Little River, horseback riding, pottery making at Studio 212, our annual visit to Lyles’ Farm, and our first visit to Dolly’s Pirates Voyage (oh my, it is awesome). We made it to Becky’s Grill and our final meal of the week is always Allison’s Catfish.

We cook. We sing. We share. We are together 24 hours a day. But what are we trying to accomplish? We want to be a part of our grandchildren’s lives in a different context. My wife spends a lot of time with them, as she keeps them during the day when their parents work. At Camp Blackberry, it is more a shared experience, with the cousins getting to know each other, sharing, arguing, but finding a way to do things together successfully.

Even though it is just one short week, there are lessons that we hope to teach. All of us will remember specific moments in our lives when things really change for us. I write about them here quite often. We don’t realize that slow, gradual evolution in our lives but quite vividly remember those epiphanous moments. We want to provide those moments of epiphany.

We want them to play together so they become better teammates, family members, and co-workers. This is huge. When you’re young, you are by necessity focused on yourself. Maybe Camp Blackberry begins the journey about thinking about others, or at least how to function within a group.

We want them to be able to take instruction, so they become coachable and teachable — again, within the context of a group. It is occasionally important that they do something that they don’t understand so that they learn to recognize how important it is to function within a group.

I’m not talking about following instructions without reason or to blindly do what those in authority tell us to do. It is our responsibility as parents, grandparents, leaders, teachers and coaches to make it understandable why we are asking someone to do something. The too simple “because I said so” is totally inadequate.

We recognize that questioning authority is sometimes how great things are accomplished. We also want them to recognize that we must be responsible to a teacher, a coach or a parent who is able to look at the big picture. That’s leadership (and more on that next week).

We want them to resolve conflict together, recognizing the greater good. To learn how to sacrifice self for the good of the larger group — for all of us want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

We want them to love life, to eat well, play hard, sleep enough and love each other.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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